Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Probating an Estate Without Administration in Texas: The Muniment of Title Procedure

What if your relative in Texas died with a will, but her assets are not very complicated, her will is clear about who should receive each asset, and you’d rather not spend a lot of money or time going through probate?

In Texas, you may be able to use a special, simplified form of probate. In order to qualify, the following must be true:

The deceased had a valid written will;
That will had not been revoked;
The only debts owed by the deceased are secured by liens on real estate; and
Four years have not passed since the date of death.

A few other conditions may apply, but if the foregoing is true, you may be able to seek an order from the Texas probate court (following a brief hearing) admitting the will to probate as a “muniment of title.” No one will be appointed to act as the executor or other representative of the deceased’s estate. Instead, the will itself becomes an official public record of Texas that acts as the required instrument to transfer title and ownership from the deceased to the persons named in her will.

You should be cautious, however, when attempting to use this simplified Texas procedure. Many stock brokerage firms, banks, life insurance companies and title companies in other states are often unfamiliar with the Texas muniment of title procedure, and they sometimes refuse to recognize this process as a valid method of transfer.

If your relative had investment/retirement accounts or similar assets that did not have valid beneficiary designations, you should check with the companies holding or managing these assets to determine whether they will accept an order probating the will as a muniment of title before attempting to use this procedure.

By: Austin Attorney Cynthia W. Veidt