In Texas, there are two ways to admit a will to probate: muniment of title and regular probate. Muniment of title is the simpler of the two procedures and is typically used when the deceased person’s estate is small or when there is no dispute over the will. Muniment of Title is the process of using a written document (such as a will) to prove the ownership of real property.
To prove muniment of title, you must file certain documents with the court, including the original will (if available) and an affidavit attesting to its validity. Read on to learn more about how to admit a will to probate via muniment of title in Texas.
Probating a Will to Prove Muniment of Title
In Texas, if you want to probate a will to prove muniment of title, you must file a petition with the court. The petition must be accompanied by the original will, unless it has been lost or destroyed. The court will then set a hearing date and notify the interested parties.
At the hearing, the petitioner must prove that the decedent had title to the property in question. This can be done by presenting evidence such as deeds, tax records, or bank statements. If the court finds that the decedent did have title to the property, it will issue an order admitting the will to probate and declaring that the property is now owned by the estate.
Texas Case Law
In Texas, a will can be admitted to probate through the process of muniment of title. This process is typically used when the property owner dies without any debts and leaves all of their assets to one heir. In order to have the will admitted to probate through muniment of title, the following steps must be taken:
1. The executor or administrator of the estate must file a Petition for Muniment of Title with the court.
2. A notice of the hearing on the petition must be published in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks.
3. After the expiration of the four-week period, a hearing will be held on the petition. At this hearing, testimony may be presented and witnesses may be called to testify as to the validity of the will.
4. If the court is satisfied that the will is valid, an Order Admitting Will to Probate and Granting Muniment of Title will be issued. This order serves as proof that the will has been admitted to probate and that title to the deceased person’s property has been transferred to their heir(s).
5. The executor or administrator of the estate may then proceed to distribute the deceased person’s property in accordance with the terms of the will.
Matter of Estate of McGrew
906 S.W.2d 53 (Tex. App. – Tyler 1995, writ denied)
Facts & Procedural History
James B. McGrew (Decedent) and his wife, Kathleen McGrew, owned a community property interest in some real property located in Van Zandt County. Decedent passed away in February of 1977, and he was survived by both Mrs. McGrew and her stepdaughter, Derrick. Mrs. McGrew was unable to find Decedent’s will and filed an application for Letters of Administration in the County Court. This was granted by the County Court, but soon after, Mrs. McGrew’s sister-in-law, Ms. Faynell Hammett, realized she had previously borrowed Decedent’s will and returned it. Mrs. McGrew then filed an application to probate the will in Dallas County, which was contested by Derrick. The County Court admitted the will to probate, and copies of the will and the order admitting the will were subsequently recorded in the deed records of Van Zandt County.
In July of 1982, the Texarkana Court of Appeals reversed the Dallas Court and held that the court’s judgment there was void on jurisdictional grounds. The admission of Decedent’s will was eventually dismissed. Through several transactions, the real property owned by the McGrews was transferred to the Gibsons prior to Mrs. McGrew’s death. In February of 1990, Derrick informed the Gibsons that she claimed an interest in the real property as an heir-at-law of McGrew. In December of 1992, the Gibsons filed an application to probate the McGrew will as a muniment of title, which was contested by Derrick. The Van Zandt County Court admitted the will to probate in September of 1993.
Derrick appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that, among other things: (1) the County Court erred admitting the will after the expiration of the four-year statute of limitations; and (2) that McGrew had waived any and all rights she had under the will. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the County Court and held that: (1) the Gibsons were not in default for failing to probate the will earlier; (2) the will was validly executed, and no revocation occurred; and (2) Mrs. McGrew’s waiver of rights under the will was irrelevant. The Court of Appeals stated that the Gibsons provided adequate justification for the delay in probate. The Gibsons acquired the real property ten years after Decedent’s death, and didn’t know of Derrick’s interest until thirteen years later. In addition, since the Gibsons weren’t in default in failing to probate the will (and it was being used solely to prove muniment of title), Mrs. McGrew’s waiver lacked relevancy.
Matter of Estate of McGrew shows that the admission of a will to probate is not improper where a proponent of a will: (1) provides adequate justification for a delay in probate; and (2) seeks only to use the will to prove muniment of title.
The process of admitting a will to probate in Texas can be complicated, but it is possible to do so without the help of an attorney. If you are comfortable with the process and have all of the necessary paperwork, you should be able to submit your will for probate without any problems. However, if you run into any difficulties or have any questions along the way, it is always best to consult with an experienced probate attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that everything is done correctly.
Do you need an Experienced Probate Attorney to help?
When a person dies, their estate must go through probate in order to be distributed to their heirs. In Texas, if the value of the estate is less than $75,000 or if the deceased had no debts, then the estate can be distributed without going through probate. However, if the estate is valued at more than $75,000 or if the deceased had outstanding debts, then probate will be necessary, and it may be worthwhile to hire an experienced probate attorney. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation. (281) 219-9090.