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Formal administration of a decedent’s (i.e., a deceased person) estate can be an expensive, timely, and rather complex legal process. There are certain facts and circumstances in which formal administration of the decedent’s estate is not necessary nor advisable.

Where the decedent died intestate—meaning, he or she died without a will—there are three  alternatives to formal administration of the estate:

  1. Judicial Determination of Heirship.

This type of informal administration is best for situations in which the estate has not been administered and the decedent owned property in Texas, or if the decedent owned property in Texas that was left out of their will. This is a proceeding in which a court determines and declares who the decedent’s heirs are, and which of those heirs get which shares of the decedent’s property.

  1. Affidavit of Heirship.

An affidavit of heirship is useful in situations where the decedent’s estate consists mostly of real property—buildings, structures, land etc., including any improvements to it—that is titled in the decedent’s name. This document is used to identify those heirs who are entitled to receive that property and to transfer the decedent’s interest in real property to their heirs at law—those who are related to the decedent such as blood relatives, their surviving spouse (if applicable), adopted and biological children, parents, and the like.

  1. Informal Administration.

Informal administration is used when the decedent’s heirs have sufficient funds to pay off the decedent’s debts, there is no need to appoint a personal representative to administer the estate, and there is no need for judicial determination of heirship because the heirs’ identity is established and undisputed. Typically, informal administration works best where there is no “titled” property in the decedent’s estate at their death, such as real property that is titled under the decedent’s own name. If the decedent’s estate consists only of tangible personal property at their death such as clothing or furniture, then the decedent’s heirs can simply agree on how to divide the remaining property in the estate amongst themselves, however they see fit. The decedent’s debts, expenses, and funeral expenses must be paid first, of course, which can be done by using funds left in the decedent’s bank account(s).


Many factors must be considered in determining which alternative to formal administration, if any, are best in any given circumstance. Some of these factors include whether the estate is solvent or insolvent, identification of the decedent’s family members and the dynamic between them, and debts, taxes, and other obligations owed by the decedent at their death. If a decedent dies without a will, and certain facts and circumstances exist, then one of the above-mentioned alternatives to formal administration may be the best option for the decedent’s family members.

Estate administration, regardless of the type of administration, is a complex legal process that can become confusing and overwhelming. If you find yourself in this situation and are trying to handle a deceased’s affairs, but they died without a will or there is some other issue, consult an experienced estate planning attorney so that you can figure out what your options are and what the best one is for your situation. 

Looking for an expert in Estate Planning?

Contact Springdale Law Group.