Texas Muniment of Title
What is a Muniment of Title?
Derived from the Latin word munimentum, a Muniment of Title indicates written evidence of title to property. This can include matters such as wills, deeds, court judgments, and other titles. Basically, it is a legal document that serves as evidence of ownership of an asset.
Unique to wills in Texas, heirs to an estate may use a Muniment of Title action to probate a loved one's will without going through independent administration, if certain criteria are met. Specifically, Chapter 257 of the Texas Estates Code governs Muniment of Title. Essentially, probating a will as a Muniment of Title allows heirs to ask the court to recognize them as the rightful beneficiaries of their loved one's properties, and subsequently request that the court allow title to the properties to be transferred to the heirs.
When is a Muniment of Title typically used?
Probate of a Will as a Muniment of Title is typically the most affordable and expedient way to probate a loved one's will in Texas. In general, probating a will as a Muniment of Title is most effectively used for estates that are straightforward and relatively small.
One of the most common examples where a Muniment of Title is used is a case where a loved one's only asset was their home, which now needs to be transferred to their heirs. Without some Texas probate procedure, the home cannot be sold, re-mortgaged, or leased without the deceased's signature. A probate procedure, such as a Muniment of Title, allows the deceased's heirs to properly remove their loved one's name from the title to real estate and properly title the home according to the will. If the heirs all get along with each other and there are no other significant assets, probating the will as a Muniment of Title is generally a good plan.
However, probating a will as a Muniment of Title should be avoided in cases where heirs do not agree with each other or in cases where the loved one's estate has significant assets other than their home. Specifically, using a Muniment of Title should be cautioned in cases where the estate has assets held out of states due to the fact that a Muniment of Title is uniquely Texan and out-of-state companies that hold stocks or other financial products often do not recognize a Muniment of Title and ask for Letters Testamentary (generally, in an Independent Administration) before disbursing any of your loved one's funds. Also, probating a will as a Muniment of Title should be cautioned if the estate has real estate holdings out-of-state due to the fact that some states may not recognize this procedure as a proper way to transfer title of real estate.
Muniment of Title Requirements:
- The decedent died leaving a valid will;
- The decedent has real properties that are located in the State of Texas;
- The probate court (or applicable county court in some counties) must have jurisdiction over the decedent's estate;
- After filing the application, citation must be served and returned before scheduling a hearing;
- Medicaid does not have a claim on the decedent's benefits that were applied for or received after March 1, 2005;
- The decedent's estate are no debts due and owing by the estate (or, the only debts owed are secured by liens/mortgages on real estate);
- There is not a need for a formal probate administration; and
- The Applicant has presented the Will and Application to the probate court within four (4) years of the decedent's death, or can prove that they are not in default of this requirement. Often, this may require notice to all beneficiaries named in the Will.
Muniment of Title Procedure:
First, the original will and an Application for Probate of Will as a Muniment of Title are filed with the probate court (or county court, if your particular county does not have a statutory probate court).
Specifically, the Application for Probate of Will as a Muniment of Title must state the following to the extent known by the Applicant exercising reasonable diligence:
- The name and address of each Applicant;
- The decedent's name, address, and, if known, the decedent's age on the date of their death;
- The time, facts, and place of the decedent's death;
- Specific facts indicating that the decedent owned property in the state of Texas and a statement describing the property and its probable value;
- The date of the decedent's will;
- Names and addresses of any executors named in the decedent's will;
- Names and addresses of any subscribing witnesses to the decedent's will;
- A statement indicating whether one or more children were born to or adopted by the decedent after the decedent executed their Will, in addition to a statement as to whether any of these children survived the decedent, and their names and addresses;
- A statement affirming that the decedent's estate does not owe any unpaid debts, other than secured debt associated with a lien on real estate;
- A statement indicating whether a marriage of the decedent was ever dissolved after the Will was executed, and if so, when and from whom did the decedent divorce;
- A statement affirming that Medicaid does not have a claim on the decedent's benefits that were applied for or received after March 1, 2005; and
- A statement indicating whether the state, a governmental agency of the state, or a charitable organization is named in the Will as a devisee of the decedent.
Before a hearing is scheduled, citation must be issued and returned. Typically, the sheriff will post a notice on the courthouse steps (or wherever your specific court posts notices) that your loved one's will is being probated. After ten (10) days pass, a probate attorney will be allowed to schedule a hearing in probate court to hear the Application for Probate of Will as a Muniment of Title.
During the ten day waiting period, a probate attorney will generally draft two additional documents that must be signed by the Petitioner (Applicant) at the hearing. The first document is called a Proof of Death and Other Facts. This document notes basic facts relating to information on your loved one's death, where your loved one lived (giving the court jurisdiction), and indicating that your loved one created a will before their death. The second document is called an Order Admitting Will to Probate as a Muniment of Title, which is typically signed by the judge at the hearing after proving up the Applicant's Application for Probate of Will as a Muniment of Title.
At the hearing, the judge will consider the validity of the decedent's will and may admit the will to probate as a Muniment of Title if the court is satisfied of the following:
- That the decedent's will is valid and should be admitted to probate;
- That the court is satisfied that the decedent's estate does not owe any unpaid debts, other than debts secured by a lien/mortgage on real estate; and
- That the court finds that there is no reason for the necessity of a formal administration of the decedent's estate.
After the Order Admitting Will to Probate as a Muniment of Title is signed by the judge, it serves as legal authority to transfer your loved one's property to the proper heirs without the need for an Executor or Administrator of the Estate. Additionally, the Order can be used to collect any of your loved one's bank accounts in the state of Texas. Additionally, as a formal Administration of the Estate is not required, the Applicant will not need to issue notices to secured creditors, other publication notices, and/or filing an Inventory of the Deceased's Estate with the probate court.
How Our Firm Can Help
If you are named as an executor or executrix of a loved one's will, or are an interested party considering probating a will, you should consider hiring a probate attorney to review the will and examine the estate of the decedent. A probate attorney can review your options available under the Texas Estates Code and best advise you how to proceed with probating your loved one's will. If your loved one died without executing a will, consider visiting our Texas Affidavit of Heirship page for information on one of the procedures for passing real estate without going through probate.
Often, probating a will as a Muniment of Title is the most expeditious and cost-efficient means, but it is best to consider all available options under the specific facts of your case before deciding on a specific method of probating a will. Our probate attorneys offer a free initial consultation and would be happy to meet with you to discuss the best options for fulfilling your loved one's final wishes.
With offices in Katy and Waco, the probate attorneys of Fair and Fair, PLLC are here to help our neighbors in Central Texas and the greater West Houston area. Additionally, we also serve clients in outlying areas of Harris and Fort Bend counties like Cinco Ranch, Fulshear, Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City, and greater Western Houston.
For more information, or to schedule a free initial consultation, call (281) 973-7255 or fill out our contact form on this page to contact our Houston probate lawyers.
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