When people die without a will in Houston or Harris County, then heirs typically have to go through the probate process before an estate can be settled. The absence of a will can make the entire process more difficult and lengthy.
One way that the probate process in Harris County is more difficult without a will than with one is that work has to be done to locate all possible heirs. Even after heirs have been identified and listed, the court assumes that there is a possibility that unknown heirs might exist. It will appoint an attorney to represent those heirs, but the person applying for probate must request that an attorney ad litem be appointed for this purpose.
Another issue that can make the probate process more lengthy is the need to convert oral testimony to writing. According to documents published by the Harris County Probate Courts, in such cases, all oral testimony must be presented as written testimony. That means that it must be recorded, and it must also be signed at a hearing in the presence of a clerk of the court.
Someone dealing with probate for an estate in the absence of a will is likely to have to show, via evidence and witness statements, information that would otherwise have been included in a will. This can include the relationships between heirs and the deceased as well as the nature of assets belonging to the estate.
The best way to avoid these problems at the time of estate administration is to have a will or other valid estate documents. However, if you are someone who is dealing with the lack of a will after someone you love has passed away, a legal professional who understands the probate process can help you navigate what can otherwise be a stressful task.
Source: Harris County Probate Courts, "When There Is No Will," accessed March 04, 2016