A surprising number of people don't have wills. When a person dies without a will -- which is called intestate -- no one knows how he wanted his property distributed. Absent a will, state intestacy laws spell out who receives the decedent's property. The property goes to the decedent's family members by order of relationship. An affidavit of heirship, sometimes known as an affidavit of descent, identifies these family members.
The Affidavit of Heirship
An affidavit of heirship identifies the decedent's heirs and explains how they are related to the decedent. By setting forth this information, the affidavit provides the evidence necessary to show that the decedent's property will belong to the identified heirs. The requirements for an affidavit of heirship vary among the states. For example, in New York, the affidavit must be signed by a non-family member who has no financial stake in the decedent's estate, but who knows the family well. In contrast, in Texas, an affidavit of heirship must be signed by one of the decedent's heirs. In addition, two witnesses also must sign the affidavit to confirm the accuracy of the information in the affidavit. The witnesses must not have any financial stake in the decedent's estate, but they must know the decedent and his family well enough to say that the person signing the affidavit is correct about who the family members are.