Thank you. If she was residing in a different state, that would mean that other state's laws would apply. You're correct, in that the small estates affidavit can't be used when there was a will. You have to swear to that under oath, and if you can't, then you wouldn't be able to do so legally. Only if there was no valid will, or that it was lost or destroyed could you honestly say that there was no will.
There's really no alternative to probate. There are lower cost options for probating a will (i.e. probating a will as muniment of title) but even that could start at around $2,000 because you can't do this on your own without an attorney, and clearly that eats into the proceeds that you're trying to recover.
The only other option would be to wait three years, in which the insurance company has to remit the proceeds to the state comptroller's office, in which a beneficiary can prove that he/she has the right to claim these funds. The comptroller doesn't necessarily require the probate documentation that the insurance company does, but merely requires that you prove that you're entitled to it somehow. Now whether or not they accept your claim is up to them, but it's cheaper than getting an attorney.
Unfortunately this is a "blind spot" in Texas law. There should still be a small estates process when there's a will. But the way the law is now, there is not, and there's no other easy and cheap process to get the documentation that you need.
I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but it is the law. I hope that clears things up anyway. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it positively (good or better). Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!