Texas law provides for a shortened, less complicated, less expensive form of probate in specific circumstances called probate as a muniment of title. This funny-sounding procedure really means that your loved one’s will is officially recognized as valid by the probate court and placed of public record as notice to third parties to honor the terms of the will for transfer of property. This is a very simple process compared to a full, regular probate.
To qualify for probate as a muniment of title (“MT”), the applicant must swear to the court that there are no unsatisfied debts of the estate, except liens against real property. This is the primary difference between a regular full probate being required and the MT probate. Other standard facts relating to the deceased person also must be included in the application.
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All that is required in the MT probate process is the filing of the application for probate (which must be sworn to) with the will attached, and one follow-up hearing before the probate judge to assure him or her that the requirements for probate have been met. The judge will sign an order admitting the will to probate as a muniment of title if the legal requirements have been met.
The order then automatically is carried forward in the official public records for the county in which the probate was filed. So, unless there is real estate owned in another county, nothing further is required for transfer of property to the beneficiaries in that county. If there is real property owned outside that county, you will need to obtain certified copies of the MT probate documents and file those with the county clerk in each county where real property is located. A certified copy of the MT probate documents also can be presented to holders of other assets such as bank accounts and investment accounts to authorize transfer to beneficiaries.
These are all steps that an estate planning attorney can handle for you to facilitate transfer of property in accord with the terms of the will. As stated above, the order probating the will as a MT can be presented to third parties holding any type of assets, such as bank accounts, investments, or to transfer title to vehicles. Unfortunately, many banks and similar institutions will try to tell you that they have to have “letters testamentary”, which are only issued in a full probate, to transfer assets. This is not true under Texas law, and Adair M. Buckner has had to educate many such parties with the threat of a lawsuit for failure to honor the order in the MT proceeding.
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If you would like to discuss whether your loved one’s will can be handled in a muniment of title probate, please contact Adair M. Buckner for a free initial consultation*.