If a person dies without a Will and had business dealings, accounts, or property in his or her name, the procedure is a little more complicated than it would have been had the person died having a valid Will. Two things must happen.
First: A family member must ask the probate court to make a formal court-ordered determination of the names of all of the heirs, along with the share of the estate to which each one is entitled. Furthermore, the court must appoint an attorney ad litem (at the expense of the estate) to do an independent investigation and report to the court on the identity of and whereabouts of any missing heirs. This procedure is called a Determination of Heirship, and requires a court hearing to complete. At that hearing, the probate court will make a determination of the identity of the Decedent’s heirs for distribution of his or her property according to intestate succession under Texas law.
Second: The heirs must apply to the probate court for “Letters of Administration.” These Letters are awarded to one of the heirs, or the heirs’ representative, to administer the estate in the same way an executor would have done had there been a Will.
Typically, both of these steps are conducted concurrently, to save time. That is, the same person who applies to the probate court for the Determination of Heirship asks the court in the same application to be appointed as the administrator, and to be awarded Letters of Administration to conduct the business of the estate.
For more information, please contact one of our probate attorneys at 214-361-5600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.