Affidavit in Lieu of Inventory
Texas has long been recognized as having one of the best probate policies in the nation. Compared with probating a Will and administering an estate in other jurisdictions, doing so in Texas is relatively inexpensive and easy. In Texas, if a Will is properly drawn, there is no need for an executor to post bond, or for a court to supervise the administration. If all goes smoothly, the entire process can be wrapped up in a month or two. Perhaps more importantly, individuals in Texas are not usually motivated to avoid the probate process. As a result, Texans rarely resort to transferring their property to a trust before they die – a process that is expensive, time consuming, and inconvenient.
Despite all of its positives, the probate policy in Texas still had one glaring problem that made some people uncomfortable – a lack of privacy. Until last year, the personal representative (executor) of every estate being administered in the state of Texas was required to file an inventory listing all of the assets of the probate estate. Because the inventory was part of a court proceeding, it was a matter of public record and could be viewed by anyone who cared to go down to the court house and have a look. This fact made some people nervous about subjecting their estate to the probate process – either because they feared unscrupulous relatives would contest their Will, or because they simply did not want other people to know their business.
All of this changed in 2011 when the state legislature amended section 250 of the Texas Probate Code. Under section 250(c), the personal representative of an estate that is being independently administered can now file an affidavit in lieu of an inventory. The affidavit must state that (i) all debts (other than secured debt, taxes, and administration expenses) have been paid, and (ii) all beneficiaries have received a “verified, full, and detailed inventory.” So, while an inventory must still be prepared and submitted to the beneficiaries of a Will, the inventory does not become a matter of public record. “Interested persons,” that is, an intestate heir or a beneficiary under a prior Will, are entitled to receive a copy of the inventory upon written request.
The affidavit in lieu of inventory is yet another step made by the Texas legislature to streamline the state’s probate process, and Texas citizens concerned about their privacy and the privacy of their families should welcome this new option in administering an estate. The attorneys at McCleskey are experienced in handling these issues and are available to answer your questions regarding probate and administration of an estate.