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Case Study: No Will, House, & Significant Debts

When Sam and Jamie’s mother passed away in Houston, Texas. They found themselves with an estate to administer but no will to guide them. While Sam resides in the same city as the estate, Jamie lives in Germany, making the coordination even more challenging. The siblings sought legal assistance to navigate the probate process.

The Challenge

The mother left behind a home, a vehicle, and several large debts, including medical bills and credit card balances. With no will in place, the siblings were unsure of how to proceed, particularly with the prospect of selling the house. They also had concerns about potential hidden liabilities that could surface later as their mother was a compulsive gambler and had payday loans, title loans, and other miscellaneous secured and unsecured debts. She had also assumed debts from her husband, who had passed away two years prior.

The Proposed Solutions

In our initial consultation with the siblings, we discussed the two primary options available to them:

  1. A full probate. We explained that a full probate, while more time-consuming and expensive, would provide them with greater protection against unforeseen creditors. The process involves appointing an administrator to the estate, notifying creditors, and settling the estate’s debts.
  2. An affidavit of heirship. On the other hand, filing an affidavit of heirship is a quicker and less formal process, suitable if they were well aware of all the debts and felt confident settling them through the proceeds of the house. However, this option does not offer the same level of protection against potential future creditors.

Given their mother’s outstanding debts, the siblings decided to proceed with a full probate to ensure they would not be personally liable for any future debts.

We ensured the sisters understood the timeline for a full probate, which could take six to eight months, mostly due to court waiting times and the period required to notify creditors, and the cost for the work.

The Takeaway

This case demonstrates the complexity of managing an estate without a will and when there are significant debts. It underscores the importance of professional guidance when navigating probate law to ensure the best outcome for all parties involved.

Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with estates that have significant debts. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.


The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.

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