Small Estate Affidavits
Texas Estates Code Chapter 205 dealing with Small Estate Affidavits (SEA) often generates confusion. Banks, insurance
companies, title companies, and other often tell people to file a Small Estate Affidavit (SEA) without thinking about the
limited situations in which an SEA can be approved People then fill out a form without reading the statute and
understanding Texas intestacy law. They pay a filing fee and expect approval. But many SEAs are denied for problems
that can’t be fixed, and the applicants lose their filing fees. Many other SEAs can’t be approved as filed.
Small Estate Affidavits are not easy! To prepare an SEA the Court can approve, you will need to meet all of the statutory
requirements. The complexity of the Texas Estates Code poses many pitfalls for non-lawyers and lawyers alike. So ….
1. Before filing an SEA, definitely look at the quick lists below.
2. We also strongly recommend you review the detailed checklist on pages 2-4 as well as the charts on pages 5-7
regarding Texas rules for who takes what property when the decedent didn’t have a will (rules for descent and
distribution). We know this material is dense. A completed SEA can’t be approved unless it meets all of the
requirements in Chapter 205 of the Texas Estates Code and follows all the rules for descent and distribution in
Chapter 201. These requirements and rules are complex, and the checklist is designed to answer the questions
people have when trying to fill out an SEA that can be approved.
3. Heirs may fill out an SEA without the assistance of an attorney, but an attorney’s advice may prevent wasted time
and money if a Small Estate Affidavit is not appropriate or may prevent having an SEA denied that could have been
approved if prepared correctly.
When CAN’T you do a Small Estate Affidavit?
An SEA can’t be approved if decedent had a will.
An SEA can’t be approved if decedent’s total assets were more than $75,000, not including homestead and
exempt property. See checklist #8 on pages 2-3.
An SEA can’t be approved if the total value of the debts and liabilities is more than the total value of the assets
(not including homestead and exempt property). See checklist #8-10 on pages 2-3.
An SEA can’t be approved if the decedent owned real property unless both of the following are true:
The real property was decedent’s homestead property, AND
Everyone who will inherit any interest in the real property was homesteading with decedent on the date
of decedent’s death. See checklist page 3, second bullet.
NOTE: The Court will always check the real property records before approving an SEA.
An SEA can’t be approved if you can’t locate an heir or if heirs refuse to sign the SEA (or have someone who has
legal authority to sign for them).
An SEA can’t be approved in Wise County unless decedent was residing in Wise County on the date of death or
other facts indicate Wise County is the appropriate place to file. See checklist #5 on page 2.
What are the most common mistakes people make when filling out an SEA?
Mistake: not using the required form. See Checklist #1 on page 2.
Mistake: leaving blanks when the form requires an answer. There are some “or” parts of the form, but the Court
can’t approve an SEA if necessary information is missing. Please double-check before filing.
Mistakes in filling out the chart in Section “I” of the form (see Checklist #8 on pages 2-3):
Not listing assets with enough detail to identify them.
Listing assets with “unknown” values.
Not including facts to show why each asset of a married decedent is “separate” or “community”
Mistakes in filling out the chart in Section “L” of the form (see Checklist #15 on page 4 and charts on pages 5-7):
Not listing all heirs and not getting the shares right in the heirship chart.
Not filling out all required columns in the heirship chart. Always fill out both “separate property”
columns and also fill out the “community property” column if decedent was married.
Updated September 6, 2017
Small Estate Affidavit Checklist – Page 1 of 6