Small Estate Affidavit in Harris County, Texas
A step by step guide on how to execute, file and record a Small Estate Affidavit in Harris County, Houston, Texas.
Do I qualify for a Small Estate Affidavit?A Small Estate Affidavit is useful where a spouse has died without a will and the *homestead is the sole real estate to be transferred.
You will qualify to use a Small Estate Affidavit if:
1. Your spouse or relative died without a will AND
2. There is no pending administration of the estate AND
3. The estate is equal to or less than $50,000 in value, excluding the homestead and exempt property (home furnishings, clothes, etc.) AND
4. The estate is solvent, meaning non-exempt assets exceed liabilities.
If you answered yes to all four questions, then proceed to the next step.
*Note only the surviving spouse and/or minor children may use the Small Estate Affidavit to transfer title to the homestead (real property). An Heirship Proceeding will be necessary to determine heirs for the transfer of real property other than the homestead.
The AffidavitHarris County has a pre-printed form they prefer you use. It follows the statutory guidelines and is easy to fill out:
1. List information about the deceased and all heirs/distributees, including names, addresses, etc.
2. List all assets and liabilities of the Estate.
3. Include a legal description and property address for the homestead (a legal description can be easily obtained from a search of the home's address on the Harris County Appraisal District's website: http://www.hcad.org/records/).
4. List names and addresses of two disinterested witnesses. They are the ones who will swear to the death, marital history and heirship of the decedent. Long term friends or neighbors of the deceased are the best witnesses. Heirs of the deceased should not be witnesses.
5. All heirs must sign the Small Estate Affidavit in front of a notary. Use extra sheets of the signature page if there are more heirs than space provided or if several heirs reside outside of Harris County. The additional pages can be collated into the whole for filing.
6. Both witnesses must sign the Heirship portion of the Affidavit in front of a notary.
Once everything is filled out and all notarized signatures are obtained, you are ready for the next step!
Texas Medicaid Estate Reimbursement ProgramPrior to granting the Small Estate Affidavit, the heirs will need to prove that no funds are owed to the Texas Medicaid Estate Reimbursement Program. A good overview of the program is found here:
1. Fill out the MERP form and send to the appropriate address listed on the form. You should receive a letter that either describes the amounts owed by the estate or states that the estate owes nothing.
MERP form: https://www.dads.state.tx.us/services/estate_recovery/TXMERPCertificationForm.pdf
2. You will need to file the MERP return letter with the Small Estate Affidavit.
FilingIn order to file the Small Estate Affidavit you will need to
1. Fill out a Civil Information Form. Style it: "The Estate of (decedent's name, eg: David Smith), deceased." Include your name and contact information. Check the box "Pro Se Petitioner" and under the heading "Probate & Mental Health" check "Other:" and write in Small Estate Affidavit. Civil Information Form: http://www.cclerk.hctx.net/Forms/CivilFamilyCoverSheet.pdf
2. Take the Civil Information Sheet, the Small Estate Affidavit, and the returned MERP Letter and file them at the Probate Division of the Harris County Clerk's office, 201 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77002, 8th floor.
3. Pay the $187.00 fee. Fee schedule: http://www.cclerk.hctx.net/Probate/Fee_Schedule.aspx
Final StepsNormally, no hearing is necessary for a Small Estate Affidavit. The judge will sign the order included with the forms and the proceedings will be concluded. The heirs should order certified copies of the Small Estate Affidavit and use these to deal with banks, brokerages, etc.
Additionally, the Small Estate Affidavit should be filed in the real property records of Harris County, Texas in order to effect transfer of the homestead.