How to Prove That I Am an Heir in Probate Proceedings in Texas

By Beverly Bird

Under Texas law, at least two circumstances exist in which you may be required to prove your relationship to a decedent. Both involve a relative dying without a will and pave the way for you to take ownership of his property as his heir. Heirs are not the same as beneficiaries. A beneficiary is someone named in a decedent's will to inherit from him. An heir is related to the decedent and inherits by virtue of that relationship when there is no will. Therefore, if you're not related to the decedent, you can't prove you're an heir.

Affidavit of Heirship

Step 1

Identify two individuals who knew your relative for a considerable period of time. They must be “disinterested,” which means they’re not related to the decedent and cannot inherit from him.

Step 2

Download two affidavits of heirship, either from a legal supply website or the website of the Texas government. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can visit the probate court in any Texas county and request forms.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Ask each individual to complete an affidavit of heirship. They must state they knew the decedent and for how long. They must list all members of the decedent’s family, including you, and attest you're related.

Step 4

File the affidavits with the county clerk in the county where the decedent’s property is located. If he left only real estate and no debts, other than mortgages against the property, filing affidavits of heirship allows the county clerk to transfer ownership of the property into the names of one or more heirs.

Application to Determine Heirship

Step 1

Prepare an application to determine heirship if your relative's estate involves multiple assets. It is available from legal websites and the probate courts in all Texas counties. The application will ask you to identify the decedent and when he died. You’ll have to list all his property as well as all other heirs in addition to yourself. Some counties may require you to include affidavits of heirship from two individuals who knew your relative.

Step 2

Ask all your relative's heirs to sign the application. Alternatively, you can contact the county sheriff or a private process server to personally serve each of them with copies. If you suspect your relative had any heirs of whom you are unaware, some counties also require you post notice of the application at the courthouse and in the newspaper.

Step 3

File your application with the probate court in the county where your relative resided when he died. If you used the sheriff or a process server for service, they will file proof with the court when they’ve accomplished it.

Step 4

Gather proof of your relationship to the decedent. This would commonly include your birth certificate, or several birth certificates of relatives that clearly link you to the decedent. You can also use a family Bible if it includes a family tree or genealogies constructed from information gathered on the Internet. Even if you filed affidavits of heirship, the court will not accept these alone as proof of your heirship.

Step 5

Meet with an attorney ad litem appointed by the court. A judge will assign one to investigate and confirm the information included in your application after he reviews it. The attorney will review the proof of your relationship to your relative and make a report to the court.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Does an Affidavit of Heirship Mean?

References

Related articles

How to Find Lost Inheritance Money

Just because a loved one leaves assets to you in his will, that does not guarantee that you will immediately receive those assets. If the probate court cannot locate you following your family member's death, it will turn the unclaimed funds over to a holding office regulated by the state. While some state agencies, such as West Virginia's treasury department, make an effort to locate the rightful owners of unclaimed property, not all agencies are as thorough. If you suspect that a deceased relative may have left you an inheritance, targeted sleuthing helps you uncover and claim the missing funds.

Filing Wills in California

California doesn’t require that every will be filed with the court. It’s a community property state. If the decedent was married and owned no separate property, such as premarital or inherited assets, probate isn’t necessary. An abbreviated probate process is available if the decedent’s estate is worth less than $100,000. All probate processes begin with filing the will with the court.

How to Write a Letter to Claim a Deceased Relative's Estate

What happens when you know are an heir of an estate but aren't included in the will? This can happen if the deceased promised you property but never included you in the will, or if you are a child of the deceased born after the will was made. However, you've now been left out of the probate process, and ultimately, you will be left out of the property distribution if you don't act. File a Letter of Demand, or a Demand for Notice with the probate court. The Demand for Notice lets everyone, including the personal representative, other heirs and the court know you feel you have a right to inherit from the estate. After you file the Demand, the probate court includes you on the mailing list for all proceedings related to the decedent's estate.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to File a Will to Be Probated in Michigan

To start the probate of a will in Michigan, you must file the will, which initiates the court proceedings necessary to ...

What Is an Heir Affidavit?

In many cases, a person dies without a will, or the will is declared invalid by a probate court. In such cases, ...

How to Obtain an Affidavit of Heirship

When someone dies without leaving a will, his property is distributed to his most immediate heirs according to the laws ...

Proof of Heirship in Wisconsin Probate

If a Wisconsin resident dies intestate -- without a will -- the probate court distributes the assets of the estate to ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED