When someone passes away in Texas with a Will, a full administration of their estate involves the appointment of a personal representative (often called the Executor) who is responsible for gathering assets, paying claims and distributing the remainder to the beneficiaries named in the Will. It also enables the decedent’s creditors to make claims and be paid–but they must follow the proper claims process, or their claim may be barred (i.e. lost).
However, Administration is not always required or necessary. In Texas, there is another option for those who want to only transfer ownership of property: probating a will as a Muniment of Title.
Muniment of Title Explained
When a Will is probated as a Muniment of Title the Will is treated as a proof of title to property. This means the property can be transferred to named beneficiaries without having to appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
To probate a will as a muniment of title in Texas, the deceased must:
- Have a valid written will
- Not have owed any debts at the time of their death except for a mortgage on their home
A Will as a Muniment of Title can facilitate urgent property transactions. Many times there is an immediate need to sell a home when the person dies (perhaps because of threatened foreclosure) but the size of the estate doesn’t warrant an administration. In these situations, the only person that can execute a document is the person listed on the title.
Using the Will as a Muniment of Title changes the ownership of the property without the need for a personal representative. The new owner now has the power to sell and/or deal with the mortgage company.
This streamlined probate action makes it possible to admit and probate a will in a single hearing. There is also no need to file an estate inventory or issue a notice to creditors.
What Is the Process?
Probating a will as a muniment of title is similar in some ways to estate administration. You engage a Texas probate attorney to file the following with the local probate court:
- Your loved ones will
- An Application to Probate Will as a Muniment of Title
- An affidavit from named beneficiaries confirming that they are aware of and agree to this method of handling the estate
- A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
Once these documents are filed, the sheriff will post a notice at the courthouse stating that your loved ones will is being probated. After ten days have passed, your attorney can schedule a hearing in the probate court.
At the nearing, you will have to sign at least two documents prepared by your probate attorney;
- Proof of Death and Other Facts, which provides information about the person’s death, place of residence, and will
- Proposed Order Admitting Will to Probate as a Muniment of Title
You must also sign an oath in which you vow that, to the best of your knowledge, the decendent owed no debts other than a mortgage on their homestead.
After the hearing, the process of distributing assets is generally less complicated than it is with a traditional estate administration. In some cases, you may have to file a compliance affidavit confirming that all distributions were made in accordance with the will within 180 days of the hearing, but this step is only necessary if all of the named beneficiaries did not submit compliance affidavits.
When an estate is small and uncomplicated, muniment of title can be an efficient and cost-effective way of settling it. It is not, however, recommended in cases where-
- The estate contains significant assets
- The beneficiaries are hostile to one another
- Some of the assets are held out of state
- The Estate has debts that must be handled
Contact a Texas Probate Attorney
Although muniment of title expedites the probate process, you may still need a Texas probate attorney to protect your interests. For example, banks are not always quick to accept muniments of title to release money in an account. In addition, you must issue a notice to all heirs when you file outside the traditional four-year probate limit, and if the whereabouts of an heir is unknown, the court must appoint an attorney ad litem.
At Romano & Sumner, we can help you avoid or overcome any complications by filing the Application to Probate Will as a Muniment of Title, observing all appropriate deadlines, and ensuring that all property transactions are completed as required by Texas estate law. For more information on how we can simplify the probate of your loved one’s estate, contact Romano & Sumner today.