Heirship “Probate” Without a Will (Intestate)

Handling an estate without a will is done through an Heirship court proceeding.  It is not really a probate since probate is only with a will.  This is how the courts direct disposal or distribution of assets upon a person’s death when there is no valid Will.  The process can be simple or extremely complex.  Fort Worth Probate Attorney Bob Leonard has a wealth of experience and a proven track record in the probate courts.

Without a Will

Death Without A Will? Heirship? Talk to an Experienced and Competent Probate Attorney!

Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding the right Fort Worth Probate Attorney so that you know what the courts require.  You cannot represent yourself in a Fort Worth Probate court. Therefore you want the best probate lawyer and the best representation.  Bob is a highly-skilled and professional probate attorney.  He is well-prepared to make sure you get what you deserve and that the estate is handled smoothly and efficiently.  The entire probate team cares about your case, your family and your well-being.

After a death, schedule a time to come to our office to meet with an experienced probate attorney. We will review all of the facts and issues and develop a customized plan to get you through the probate court system as quickly and as directly and rapidly as possible.

Who Inherits in Without a Will?


Who Inherits if There is No Will?  In Texas, that depends on whether the person was married and whether the property is community property or separate property.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY — generally this means things acquired during the marriage as a couple

If the spouse and the Decedent are parents of ALL of the of the Decedent All to spouse
If the Decedent had at least one child who was not the child of the surviving spouse All to children (The surviving spouse keeps his or her half of the community and the children get the community share of the Decedent
The decedent left a spouse and no children Spouse gets all


With Surviving Spouse and Children  (or their descendants)

Personal Property Children get 2/3

Spouse gets 1/3

Real Property Spouse gets life interest in 1/3

Children get all of 2/3 and the remainder of 1/3

SEPARATE PROPERTY – With spouse and no children  (or their descendants)

Personal Property All to spouse
Real Property ½ to spouse

The other half will depend on other heirs that survive the Decedent.   For Example, if both parents survive, they split this half.  If one parent survives, with no siblings, the parent inherits all of this half.  If one parent and siblings survive, the parent gets half of this half and the siblings share the remaining half.  If no parent survives but siblings do, the siblings share this half equally.  If there are no parents or children, the spouse gets all of this half, along with his or her own half.

SEPARATE PROPERTY — generally this means things from before the marriage or inheritance or gift to a specific person

With no surviving spouse but with children

If there are children The children get all of the separate property

SEPARATE PROPERTY – With no spouse and no children  (or their descendants)

If both parents survive Each parent gets half
If one parent and siblings survive The parent gets half and the siblings split the other half
If one parent survives and no siblings survive The parent gets all of the separate property
In no parent survives and there are siblings The siblings split the separate property; if a sibling is deceased, the deceased sibling’s children split their share; if the deceased sibling had no children, the surviving siblings split all the property

If no spouse, children or their descendant, parents, or siblings survive, there is a similar scheme for maternal and paternal grandparents and their descendants and even higher in the ancestry, if necessary.

There are also special provisions for half-siblings.

Heirship Process for Probate Without a Will

In a probate without a will, an interested person  files an Application to Determine Heirship with the court.  The Judge appoints an attorney ad litem to represent any missing or unknown heirs.  The Attorney Ad Litem makes a report to the court.  Then you have the prove-up, the issuance of Letters of Administration.  At this time, the judge will decide whether the administration will be a Dependent Administration or an Independent Administration.  The Judge may require a Dependent Administration if there are conflicts among the heirs or if there are minor or incapacitated heirs.  After that, the process follows a list that is very similar to the steps in the Probate Administration.

Basic Steps of an Heirship Administration for Probate Without a Will

  • The named executor or an interested person applies to Determine Heirship with an Application filed in the court.
  • The Clerk issues citation on the application, and the citations are served.
  • If the personal representative (usually an heir) is from out of state, then he or she can designate a resident agent for service of process.
  • The Court will appoint an attorney ad litem to represent nonresidents, unknown or missing heirs, or persons having a legal disability.
  • The attorney ad litem investigates the matter and files a report  of findings with the court.
  • The Court holds a hearing on the application, and for issuance of Letters of Administration.
  • The Court orders the validity of the determination of Heirs., and orders a Dependent or Independent Administration of the estate.
    • The administrator takes an oath.
    • The Clerk issues Letters of Administration.
  • The Attorney publishes a notice of the probate and Letters.
  • The personal representative takes possession and control of the estate property.
  • The personal representative is now responsible for administration of the estate.
    • opening an estate bank account
    • giving notice to the heirs, IRS and creditors
    • preparing and filing an inventory
    • filing an estate tax return and a final income tax return
    • paying debts appropriately and in accordance with the law
    • distributing the property

Bob Leonard Law Group, PLLC

Attorney Services Areas for Bob Leonard Law Group, PLLC Heirship Law Practice.


Intestate Estate or Heirship?  Call an Experienced Professional Probate Attorney!


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