Can we avoid the courthouse?

Good Morning. My mother recently paased away and myself as well as my mother’s
immediately family was wondering if there was a way that we could gain access to
things like her bank accounts without going through the courts. We have agreed to
split everything amongst ourselves but we cannot gain access to anything.

Asked on May 27, 2016 under Estate Planning, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Most states have simplified procedures for small estates.
TX has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate completely if the value of all the assets, not including homestead and exempt property, is $50,000 or less. . All an heir has to do is prepare a short affidavit stating that they are entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset. However, this out-of-court procedure is available only if there is no Will.
TX also has simplified small estate process if the value of the property doesn't exceed what's needed to pay the family allowance and certain creditors. "independent administration" is available, regardless of the value of an estate, if it's requested in the Will or if all beneficiaries/heirs agree to it. To use this procedure, an executor/personal representative files a written request with the probate court asking for permission to use it. If granted, the court authorizes the executor/PR to distribute the assets without having to go through a formal probate.
You can google for the specific county in question to obtain further information as to all of this.

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