It’s important to note that Texas has a very streamlined process of independent administration that requires very little court involvement after the will is admitted to probate, so we typically encourage our clients to proceed with a standard probate if their loved one died with a valid, well drafted will. However, Texas law provides several probate alternatives that may be quicker and more cost effective depending on the circumstances. Some probate alternatives are listed below:
- Muniment of Title;
- Affidavits of Heirship; and
- Small Estate Affidavit.
A “Muniment of Title” is used to transfer a decedent’s property without a formal administration; however the probate court is still involved to a certain extent. Basically, the decedent’s will serves as documentary evidence of title or ownership of an asset and works as a link the “chain of title” for the property. There are limited circumstances for using a “Muniment of Title” to transfer property, so it’s important that clients are transparent about all the circumstances surrounding an estate with their probate attorney before proceeding with this method.
“Affidavits of Heirship” are sworn or acknowledged statements that can be used as evidence of an heir’s title to real property. These documents are filed in the real property records where the decedent owned property and avoid the probate court altogether. Similar to a “Muniment of Title,” “Affidavits of Heirship” can only be used in limited circumstances, so it’s extremely important that probate attorneys are provided with all the information surrounding an estate before proceeding with this method.
A “Small Estate Affidavit” serves as a legal document to identify a decedent’s heirs and their respective shares of the decedent’s property. This method is only appropriate if the value of certain estate assets is $75,000 or less.
There are a few reasons to use an alternative to probate, including avoiding the expense and burden of a formal administration and obtaining the decedent’s property more quickly. However, there are several pitfalls to using an alternative to probate if it is not the appropriate procedure under the circumstances. In fact, if an alternative to probate is not the appropriate procedure under the circumstances, it will likely be much more expensive and time consuming to shift to the appropriate procedure. As a result, we always stress the importance of gathering all the necessary information and providing it to your probate attorney to confirm that you are using the quickest and most cost effective probate procedure.