Probate Law

Affidavit of Heirship


If a loved one dies and does not have a Will, in certain circumstances an Affidavit of Heirship may work to transfer ownership of that person’s property. An Affidavit of Heirship is a simple legal method that may be used when all of the heirs agree to the procedure. By filing an Affidavit of Heirship in the deed records of the County in which any piece of real property is owned by the decedent, the decedent’s loved ones may avoid going through the probate process. The Affidavit of Heirship will allow the property title to be transferred to the decedent’s heirs. While the statutory waiting period is five (5) years, once the Affidavit of Heirship is filed with the County, most title companies will allow the heirs to sell the property immediately. This can be a valuable and inexpensive method for transferring property in circumstances where your loved one dies without a Will.

 

To create an Affidavit of Heirship, strict procedures set out in the Texas Estates Code must be followed. If your loved one has passed away, and you need help establishing an Affidavit of Heirship, Austin Probate Attorney Lesley Hempfling can help you. Whether the property lies in the Austin area or in another part of Texas, Ms. Hempfling’s experience in Texas probate law will make the process smooth during this difficult time.

Contested Probate Matters


Unfortunately, not all probate matters are resolved amicably between the parties involved. As a beneficiary, you may need to file a lawsuit to protect your interests or challenge the actions of an executor or trustee. Trustees and executors may need representation in protecting the trust or estate assets or themselves from personal liability. Our office handles contested probate matters on behalf of beneficiaries, trustees and executors.

Determination of Heirship Proceedings


If a loved one dies without a Will (also known as dying “intestate”), the State of Texas will determine who inherits his or her property. Based on information gathered and presented to the Court, the Court will determine the heirs of the estate. This complex process falls under what is known as Probate Law. Local Austin attorney Lesley Hempfling can help you in this part of the Probate process.

 

Determination of Heirship Proceedings is one of the first steps of this long, complex legal matter. In order to make decisions regarding property, the Court must locate all of the heirs of the decedent. Austin probate attorney Ms. Hempfling will initiate the process by filing an Application to Determine Heirship in Texas. State law requires that all of the heirs of the decedent receive notice of the proceedings, and Ms. Hempfling will make sure those notices are posted correctly. In addition, the Court will appoint an Attorney Ad Litem to represent unknown heirs.

 

At the hearing on the Application to Determine Heirship, the Court will consider testimony from all sides. Ms. Hempfling will represent you in this court hearing and ensure you have taken all the proper legal steps including bringing two witnesses that can testify to your relationship with the decedent and providing all the evidence of this relationship. After hearing from all sides, the Judge will enter a Judgment Declaring Heirship. This Judgment will state all of the heirs and the percentage of property or assets they should receive.

 

Like many legal procedures, the Determination of Heirship Proceedings involves many nuances and intricacies. Getting legal representation from an experienced probate lawyer such as Ms. Hempfling is highly advisable.

Estate Administration


When a loved one passes away, his or her property will need to be collected, managed and ultimately transferred to a new owner. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent’s debts and distributing the remaining assets. Without a basic understanding of the probate process and requirements, this can be an overwhelming process.


The Law Office of Lesley Hempfling can assist you with the estate administration process. By hiring an experienced probate attorney, you’ll be able to focus on other critical matters during this time of loss. While our office is based in Austin, Texas in Travis County, we provide probate and estate administration services in many surrounding counties, including: Bexar, Hays, Fayette, Milam, Burleson and Williamson counties. Austin probate attorney Lesley Hempfling can expedite each step of the estate administration process and can answer any questions you have during the process.

Fiduciary Litigation


A fiduciary relationship is a special relationship that creates an obligation on the part of one person to act in the best interest of another person. The most common types of fiduciaries are executors, trustees, shareholders, and partners. Lawsuits may be brought to enforce beneficiaries’ rights as well as to challenge the actions of fiduciaries. Our office represents both beneficiaries and fiduciaries in the area of fiduciary litigation.

Family Settlement Agreements


Even though a loved one left a Will, family members may want to contest the Will or change distributions. A family settlement agreement offers an out-of-court solution to handle the matters.

 

Austin probate attorney Lesley Hempfling can create your family settlement agreement. When drafted properly, the agreement is legal document recognized by Texas courts and is an easy, cost-effective solution to change the distribution of property. A family settlement agreement will prevent the expense and difficulties that are part of the litigation process.

 

If you need to create a family settlement agreement, please contact estate administration lawyer Lesley Hempfling.

Muniment of Title


A Muniment of Title is a legal procedure unique to Texas to transfer ownership of real estate after a loved one dies. By having your probate attorney file a Muniment of Title, you’ll quickly settle your loved ones affairs. A Muniment of Title allows the estate to be handled without appointing an executor or going through the full probate process. In essence, it streamlines the probate process.

A Muniment of Title can only be used when there is a Will and the decedent has no unpaid debts other than those secured by real estate such as a mortgage. A judge can order the Will to probate as a Muniment of Title, which then legally transfers the ownership of the property to the person named in the Will. By doing so, the decedent’s property can then be sold.

Please contact Austin probate attorney Lesley Hempfling to file your Muniment of Title or answer any questions you have about this process.

Small Estate Affidavits


If a loved one dies without a Will, a Small Estate Affidavit may be filed to distribute the loved one’s property under limited circumstances. In order to file a Small Estate Affidavit, the loved ones assets must not exceed $50,000, not including homestead and property exemptions. 30 days must have also passed since the date of death. The only real property that can be transferred using a Small Estate Affidavit is the homestead property. If your loved one owned other homes, time shares or brokerage accounts, the Small Estate Affidavit will not be available for the transfer of these assets. A Small Estate Affidavit requires all assets and liabilities to be listed along with which heirs will receive ownership and their relationship to the decedent. Two disinterested witnesses must also file a sworn affidavit affirming they knew the decedent and can identify the family members and/or heirs.

Austin estate planning attorney Lesley Hempfling can help you determine whether a Small Estates Affidavit will work in your unique circumstances and will provide you with the expertise you need in order to draft and file the Small Estates Affidavit.

Trust Litigation


Trust litigation typically involves the same types of issues and claims as fiduciary litigation in general. However, it may also involve issues related to the operation and management of trusts in general, such as demands for accountings and litigation that results from the information or lack of information in the response to those requests. Our office handles trust litigation matters on behalf of both beneficiaries and trustees.

Will Contests


If you believe that your loved one’s Will is not valid for a reason that may not be apparent on the face of the document, you may find yourself in a Will Contest. If the testator executed her Will under undue influence, duress or by mistake, the Will may be found invalid under Texas law. Further, if you believe the testator did not have the requisite mental capacity to execute a valid Will at the time she signed it, the Will may also be invalid. Our office handles the defense and petition of Will Contests.