Intestate is the term used to describe the estate of a person who passes without a will.  Each state has laws that specifically address the succession sequence in the event someone passes intestate.  In Texas, this can be found in the Estates Code, beginning in chapter 201.001.  The distributive schemes established in the Estates Code vary depending on whether the decedent was married or single; if married, whether the property was community property or separate property; whether the decedent had any children (natural born or adopted); and what type of property it is, i.e., real or personal property.  While the statutes are detailed as to the “”what” and the “whom,” please note that neither of these items may actually reflect the intent of the decedent.  In the absence of a will, however, it is these schemes that will be imposed.  The probate procedure that serves to satisfy the identification of the proper spouses, children, and/or other beneficiaries, is known as an heirship proceeding.  Heirship proceedings are initiated by an application to the court and should include the applicant’s proposed findings as to the property to be distributed and identification of the proper beneficiaries.  The court will then appoint an ad litem who will work to ascertain the truth of the facts alleged in the application by searching for any unknown or unrepresented heirs.  At the heirship hearing, the applicant will present testimony from two witnesses in support of the application and the ad litem’s findings will either prove or dis-prove this testimony.  If the ad litem’s findings comport with the applicant’s, the judge will sign an order declaring it’s heirship findings.  If the ad litem’s findings differ from those alleged in the application, further hearings and/or testimony may ensue before an heirship determination may be made.

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