Texas’ Small Estate Affidavit

When a loved one passes away, one of two things usually happens to everything they left behind. If the person had a legal Estate Plan in place, their wishes will be followed and everything they left behind will be divided according to their decisions. If they did not create an Estate Plan, their property will enter probate court. In probate court, a state Judge will examine everything they left behind and determine where it should go.

Probate has a reputation for being a long, expensive, and emotionally difficult process. For loved ones who pass away without leaving much in the way of an estate behind, it can feel a little redundant and overwhelming. In Texas, there is another option for such cases: the Small Estate Affidavit.

A Small Estate Affidavit is a form that someone can fill out with the help of an attorney to pass along their loved one’s estate with minimal probate court involvement. It is intended specifically for modest estates. In order to be eligible to use a Small Estate Affidavit, the estate in question has to meet all of the following criteria:

  • The loved one died without creating an Estate Plan or leaving behind a Will.
  • The estate they left behind is valued at less than $75,000, not including property that is considered exempt.
  • The value of the estate is more than the debts associated with it.
  • The only real estate property left behind in the estate is homestead property that will be passed along to the decedent’s surviving spouse or minor children.
  • It has been at least thirty days since the loved one passed away.
  • No one has begun the probate process.
  • All of the descendents are able to sign the Small Estate Affidavit.

To note a few key terms there, “homestead property” refers to a property that someone lives in themselves. A motel you own, for instance, would not be homestead property, but a business. A house, apartment, or condo you own and live in would be homestead property. In order to qualify for the Small Estate Affidavit, the only property the loved one can own is homestead property that is being passed along to the decedent’s surviving spouse or minor children.

Similarly, exempt property is not calculated in the $75,000 estate value cut-off. Homestead property, primary vehicles, and work-related equipment are traditionally exempt from being included in an estate’s value. In this case, the value refers primarily to any additional property, vehicles, or money the loved one left behind.

It may seem like a lot of criteria to meet, but a surprising number of people fit the bill. Often, families are unable to access their loved one’s bank accounts and property, but are unsure of the time and price associated with probate. A Small Estate Affidavit can be a cost-effective solution in these situations, as long as every descendent of the loved one is willing and able to sign it together.

If you have lost a loved one in Texas, a Small Estate Affidavit may be a more cost-effective estate solution than going through probate court. To discuss all of your options, contact Albright & Lumpkin, PC today! We protect what matters most to you.

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At Albright & Lumpkin, we help individuals, families, and business owners achieve their goals and protect their futures.

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