When a person dies without a Will and an estate administration is needed, a judicial determination of the deceased person’s heirs at law will also be required. The legal process for determining a deceased person’s heirs at law is called an Heirship Determination. Texas probate courts and county courts at law are the only courts that have authority to determine a deceased person’s heirs at law. Anyone applying for an Heirship Determination must be represented by a probate attorney.
When a person dies without a Will, Texas inheritance and probate laws determine who inherits the deceased person’s property. Further, under Texas probate laws, an heir’s relationship to the deceased person will determine what property they receive as well as the fractional interest in the property that they receive. Generally, it is the spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings of a deceased person who are the heirs at law under Texas probate laws. If a person dies not having any of these people in their life, then the probate court will look to the deceased person’s grandparents and the descendants of their grandparents as possible heirs, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, and other distant relatives (sometimes referred to a “laughing heirs”).
Notably, live-in partners and longtime boyfriends/girlfriends and significant others are excluded from the statutory definition of an “heir”. Also excluded from the statutory definition of an heir are step-children and other step-family members. Therefore, if you have someone important in your life who you would like to inherit your property at death, instead of your next of kin, you should contact an estate planning attorney about making a Will. A well-drafted Will and estate plan avoids an Heirship Determination.
The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only and is NOT legal advice. You should consult a probate and estate administration attorney if you have any questions about the information contained on this page or about your particular circumstances or those of someone you know.
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