Estate Planning Lawyer

When you have lost someone in your life, it can be incredibly confusing when you reach out to an attorney to figure out the next steps in probating an estate. There are so many new terms, deadlines, questions, it is a whirlwind that is not always easily understood. One of the most common questions I hear is what is an heirship? 

When someone dies without a Will in Texas, there estate will pass under the intestacy laws of the Texas Estates Code. Intestacy is merely a fancy term to show that the person died without a Will. The intestacy laws dictate that the estate is to pass to the person’s heirs. That is where the term heirship comes into play. An heirship is merely a proceeding in which a Court will make a determination of who the heirs actually are. 

Anyone who is considered an interest party can file an heirship proceeding in Texas. Typically, this interested person comes in the form of an heir who has an ownership interest in the estate itself. However, a creditor of the estate or a guardian could also be considered an interested person and could in fact file an application for heirship. The process is a complicated one, and it is strongly recommended that an applicant retain an attorney to help guide them through it. The process has many pitfalls and deadlines that are incredibly complicated. Further, many judges in Texas require that an applicant have an attorney to represent them in this process. Seeking attorney guidance can also help the applicant themselves. It is so often the case that when an applicant starts this process, it prevents them from truly grieving the loss of their loved one. Having an attorney can help get the applicant through the process quicker, which will allow them to begin grieving their loved one properly. 

Another pitfall that occurs in an heirship proceeding is understanding the deadline to file such a proceeding. Under the Texas Estates Code, if someone dies with a Will there is a limitation on filing that Will for probate. That deadline is four years from the date the person passed away. However, does this deadline apply to an heirship? Well, that depends. The Texas Supreme Court has outlined that the rule of thumb is that if a transfer of the decedent’s real property has been made to a third party or if a previous probate proceeding was filed than the four year time limit to file the proceeding does in fact apply. However, if neither of those things have occurred, then there is no time limit to file this proceeding. 

As you can see, it is not a simple process to probate a decedent’s estate. It is imperative that if you find yourself needing to file some form of a probate proceeding, that you seek legal guidance from an experienced probate attorney, like the attorneys at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC