Texas Small Estates Law

Wills and Estates – Small Estates – Texas

Small Estates General Summary: Small Estate laws were enacted in order to enable heirs to obtain property of the deceased without probate, or with shortened probate proceedings, provided certain conditions are met. Small estates can be administered with less time and cost. If the deceased had conveyed most property to a trust but there remains some property, small estate laws may also be available. Small Estate procedures may generally be used regardless of whether there was a Will. In general, the two forms of small estate procedures are recognized:

1. Small Estate Affidavit -Some States allow an affidavit to be executed by the spouse and/or heirs of the deceased and present the affidavit to the holder of property such as a bank to obtain property of the deceased. Other states require that the affidavit be filed with the Court. The main requirement before you may use an affidavit is that the value of the personal and/or real property of the estate not exceed a certain value.

2. Summary Administration -Some states allow a Summary administration. Some States recognize both the Small Estate affidavit and Summary Administration, basing the requirement of which one to use on the value of the estate. Example: If the estate value is 10,000 or less an affidavit is allowed but if the value is between 10,000 to 20,000 a summary administration is allowed.

Texas Summary:
Under Texas statute, where as estate is valued at less than $50,000, an interested party may, thirty (30) days after the death of the decedent, file an affidavit with the clerk of the court having jurisdiction and venue over the estate. After the affidavit has been approved by the court, the affidavit may be used to collect debts owed to the decedent.

Texas Requirements:
Texas requirements are set forth in the statutes below.

Probate Code

§ 137. Collection of Small Estates Upon Affidavit

(a) The distributees of the estate of a decedent who dies intestate shall be entitled thereto, to the extent that the assets, exclusive of homestead and exempt property, exceed the known liabilities of said estate, exclusive of liabilities secured by homestead and exempt property, without awaiting the appointment of a personal representative when:

(1) No petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted; and
(2) Thirty days have elapsed since the death of the decedent; and
(3) The value of the entire assets of the estate, not including homestead and exempt property, does not exceed $50,000; and
(4) There is filed with the clerk of the court having jurisdiction and venue an affidavit sworn to by two disinterested witnesses, by all such distributees that have legal capacity, and, if the facts warrant, by the natural guardian or next of kin of any minor or the guardian of any other incapacitated person who is also a distributee, which affidavit shall be examined by the judge of the court having jurisdiction and venue; and
(5) The affidavit shows the existence of the foregoing conditions and includes a list of all of the known assets and liabilities of the estate, the names and addresses of the distributees, and the relevant family history facts concerning heirship that show the distributees’ rights to receive the money or property of the estate or to have such evidences of money, property, or other rights of the estate as are found to exist transferred to them as heirs or assignees; and
(6) The judge, in the judge’s discretion, finds that the affidavit conforms to the terms of this section and approves the affidavit; and
(7) A copy of the affidavit, certified to by said clerk, is furnished by the distributees of the estate to the person or persons owing money to the estate, having custody or possession of property of the estate, or acting as registrar, fiduciary or transfer agent of or for evidences of interest, indebtedness, property, or other right belonging to the estate.

(b) This section does not affect the disposition of property under the terms of a will or other testamentary document nor, except as provided by Subsection (c) of this section, does it transfer title to real property.

(c) Title to a decedent’s homestead that is the only real property in a decedent’s estate may be transferred on an affidavit that meets the requirements of this section. An affidavit that is used to transfer title to a homestead under this section must be recorded in the deed records of a county in which the homestead is located. A bona fide purchaser for value may rely on a recorded affidavit under this section. A bona fide purchaser for value without actual or constructive notice of an heir who is not disclosed in a recorded affidavit under this section acquires title to a homestead free of the interests of the undisclosed heir, but the bona fide purchaser remains subject to any claim a creditor of the decedent has by law. A purchaser has constructive notice of an heir who is not disclosed in a recorded affidavit under this section if an affidavit, judgment of heirship, or title transaction in the chain of title in the deed records identifies the heir of the decedent who is not disclosed in the affidavit as an heir of the decedent. An heir who is not disclosed in a recorded affidavit under this section may recover from an heir who receives consideration from a purchaser in a transfer for value of title to a homestead passing under the affidavit.

(d) If the judge approves the affidavit under this section, the affidavit is to be recorded as an official public record under Chapter 194, Local Government Code. If the county has not adopted a microfilm or microphotographic process under Chapter 194, Local Government Code, the county clerk shall provide and keep in his office an appropriate book labeled “Small Estates,” with an accurate index showing the name of the decedent and reference to land, if any, involved, in which he shall record every such affidavit so filed, upon being paid his legal recording fee.

§ 138. Effect of Affidavit

The person making payment, delivery, transfer or issuance pursuant to the affidavit described in the preceding Section shall be released to the same extent as if made to a personal representative of the decedent, and shall not be required to see to the application thereof or to inquire into the truth of any statement in the affidavit, but the distributees to whom payment, delivery, transfer, or issuance is made shall be answerable therefor to any person having a prior right and be accountable to any personal representative thereafter appointed. In addition, the person or persons who execute the affidavit shall be liable for any damage or loss to any person which arises from any payment, delivery, transfer, or issuance made in reliance on such affidavit. If the person to whom such affidavit is delivered refuses to pay, deliver, transfer, or issue the property as above provided, such property may be recovered in an action brought for such purpose by or on behalf of the distributees entitled thereto, upon proof of the facts required to be stated in the affidavit.

§ 139. Application for Order of No Administration

If the value of the entire assets of an estate, not including homestead and exempt property, does not exceed the amount to which the surviving spouse and minor children of the decedent are entitled as a family allowance, there may be filed by or on behalf of the surviving spouse or minor children an application in any court of proper venue for administration, or, if an application for the appointment of a personal representative has been filed but not yet granted, then in the court where such application has been filed, requesting the court to make a family allowance and to enter an order that no administration shall be necessary. The application shall state the names of the heirs or devisees, a list of creditors of the estate together with the amounts of the claims so far as the same are known, and a description of all real and personal property belonging to the estate, together with the estimated value thereof according to the best knowledge and information of the applicant, and the liens and encumbrances thereon, with a prayer that the court make a family allowance and that, if the entire assets of the estate, not including homestead and exempt property, are thereby exhausted, the same be set aside to the surviving spouse and minor children, as in the case of other family allowances provided for by this Code.

§ 140. Hearing and Order Upon the Application

Upon the filing of an application for no administration such as that provided for in the preceding Section, the court may hear the same forthwith without notice, or at such time and upon such notice as the court requires. Upon the hearing of the application, if the court finds that the facts contained therein are true and that the expenses of last illness, funeral charges, and expenses of the proceeding have been paid or secured, the court shall make a family allowance and, if the entire assets of the estate, not including homestead and exempt property, are thereby exhausted, shall order that no administration be had of the estate and shall assign to the surviving spouse and minor children the whole of the estate, in the same manner and with the same effect as provided in this Code for the making of family allowances to the surviving spouse and minor children.

§ 141. Effect of Order

The order that no administration be had on the estate shall constitute sufficient legal authority to all persons owing any money, having custody of any property, or acting as registrar or transfer agent of any evidence of interest, indebtedness, property, or right, belonging to the estate, and to persons purchasing from or otherwise dealing with the estate, for payment or transfer to the persons described in the order as entitled to receive the estate without administration, and the persons so described in the order shall be entitled to enforce their right to such payment or transfer by suit.

§ 142. Proceeding to Revoke Order

At any time within one year after the entry of an order of no administration, and not thereafter, any interested person may file an application to revoke the same, alleging that other property has been discovered, or that property belonging to the estate was not included in the application for no administration, or that the property described in the application was incorrectly valued, and that if said property were added, included, or correctly valued, as the case may be, the total value of the property would exceed that necessary to justify the court in ordering no administration. Upon proof of any of such grounds, the court shall revoke the order of no administration. In case of any contest as to the value of any property, the court may appoint two appraisers to appraise the same in accordance with the procedure hereinafter provided for inventories and appraisements, and the appraisement of such appraisers shall be received in evidence but shall not be conclusive.

§ 143. Summary Proceedings for Small Estates After Personal Representative Appointed

Whenever, after the inventory, appraisement, and list of claims has been filed by a personal representative, it is established that the estate of a decedent, exclusive of the homestead and exempt property and family allowance to the surviving spouse and minor children, does not exceed the amount sufficient to pay the claims of Classes One to Four, inclusive, as claims are hereinafter classified, the personal representative shall, upon order of the court, pay the claims in the order provided and to the extent permitted by the assets of the estate subject to the payment of such claims, and thereafter present his account with an application for the settlement and allowance thereof. Thereupon the court, with or without notice, may adjust, correct, settle, allow or disallow such account, and, if the account is settled and allowed, may decree final distribution, discharge the personal representative, and close the administration.

Inside Texas Small Estates Law