When people begin planning their own estate, they often cite the desire to avoid probate as one of their reasons for making a comprehensive estate plan. In some states, a careful estate plan might be sufficient for someone to avoid probate court, particularly if they move major assets into a trust.
However, in Texas, most estates will require some involvement of the probate courts. For example, estates with creditors who have claims against the deceased not related to mortgages secured by a property will have to go through dependent estate administration, a complex and often lengthy process.
Estates with real estate, no matter how small its value, will also typically have to go through probate. The greater the value of the estate, the more likely it is that probate is necessary. However, it is possible for an estate executor or administrator to use muniment of title, which allows them to effectively bypass probate court.
What are the circumstances that allow for muniment of title?
Only certain states are eligible for muniment of title, and others will have to go through probate due to their overall value or the nature of the assets included in the estate. Currently, Texas probate law permits the application of the legal concept of muniment of title to avoid probate.
Only certain estates will qualify for this unique process. There must be a valid last will, and the deceased party must be a Texas resident. Additionally, any real estate in the estate should be in Texas. The estate should have no outstanding debts, other than the mortgages attached to the real estate included in the estate. Finally, the courts must agree that there is no reason for the courts to oversee the administration of the estate.
You may not even need a formal executor
In theory, if the last will is clear and the heirs don’t challenge the decision, an estate using muniment of title to avoid probate doesn’t even need an executor. Still, having professional help can be valuable during the administration of an estate in this scenario.
Like dependent estate administration, muniment of title can potentially complicate an estate’s proceedings before it simplifies them. Getting good advice on the best approach to managing the estate and familiarizing yourself with how Texas handles the probate process can give you more confidence when dealing with an estate.