If an individual dies without a Will in Texas, an heirship proceeding must be filed in the probate court to determine the heirs of the estate. An individual interested in the estate would file an application to determine the heirs and to appoint an administrator of the estate if necessary. The court would then appoint an ad litem attorney to represent the unknown heirs of the estate.
The ad litem attorney would investigate the heirs of the estate and file a report with the court upon the closing of his or her investigation. Once the heirs have been determined, it is necessary to provide the court with fractional shares of inheritance for each heir of the estate. These fractions would be produced according to the intestacy laws of Texas. These laws distinguish between the deceased’s separate and community real and personal property. The initial determination is whether the decedent had a surviving spouse. From there, the distribution is per capita with representation, meaning the distribution first flows to those relatives who are the within the same degree of relationship and if they are not alive to those descendants surviving them. An heirship proceeding can be extensive, time consuming, and expensive, which is why you should always plan for your future and estate by drafting the appropriate estate planning documents.