When a decedent dies intestate, their estate vests immediately in their heirs at law subject to the decedent’s debts and any court-ordered child support payments that are delinquent on the date of death.[1] However, since third parties may be hesitant to take the word of the heirs due to the lack of documentation identifying the heirs or property they are entitled to, a determination of heirship, with or without a request for an estate administration, can be used.
An application to determine heirship can be filed at any time after the decedent’s death and the four-year limitations period does not apply.[2] It asks a court to determine and declare who are the decedent’s heirs as well as the heirs’ respective shares and interests in the decedent’s estate.[3] A determination of heirship can be used when the decedent dies completely intestate owning or entitled to property in Texas, and there has been no administration or final disposition of assets.[4] It can also be used when the decedent dies partially intestate, or when a trustee needs to determine heirs of a trust.[5]
If an application to determine heirship is filed before the fourth anniversary of the date of death, it may include a request for the court to determine whether there is a need for administration of the decedent’s estate and for the appointment of an administrator.[6] The administration will be dependent unless the heirs agree to independent administration.[7] While the decedent’s heirs must be determined before the court will appoint an independent administrator, it is common practice to use a combined application (“Application for Determination of Heirship and for Letters of [Independent/Dependent] Administration”) or simultaneously file an Application to Determine Heirs and an Application for Administration.[8]
[1] Tex. Est. Code §§101.001(b), 101.051.
[2] Tex. Est. Code §202.0025
[3] Tex. Est. Code §202.001
[4] Tex. Est. Code §§202.002(1), (2)(B)
[5] Tex. Est. Code §§202.002(2)(A), (3)
[6] Tex. Est. Code §202.006
[7] Tex. Est. Code §401.003(a)
[8] Tex. Est. Code §401.003(b)

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