What is Probate as Muniment of Title?
Most times when someone dies with a Will, the Will has to be probated to transfer property to their loved ones. In Texas, probating a Will is usually very easy and straightforward. Generally, you are asking the court to find that it was a valid Will so that the property can be transferred to the folks named as the beneficiaries, and asking the court to appoint the person named in the Will to act as the Executor to administer the estate. When appointed, the Executor can get “Letters Testamentary”, which is just a fancy term for court orders showing that the Executor can act on behalf of the estate.
When things like funds in a bank account, stocks and bonds, or other investments need to be transferred, the banks or investment companies require Letters Testamentary before they will transfer anything. They require the Letters because they want to make sure that they are protected if they give the money to someone. If the Executor can give them a Letter Testamentary, then they know they can give the assets to the Executor, and the Executor will then be responsible if they don’t turn the money over to the right people. (It lets the banks and financial institutions off the hook.)
If Letters Testamentary will be needed in order to transfer estate property, then we say that an “administration” is needed. However, there are some times when no administration is required.
If it has been less than 4 years since the person has died, and there are no debts owed by the estate (except those secured by an interest in real property, like a mortgage), and no administration is required, and the person that died has never applied for or received Medicaid benefits, then we may be able to probate a Will as “Muniment of Title”. If you have a valid Will, you may be able to transfer title to real property and even vehicles without an administration.
Basically, filing a Will for Probate as Muniment of Title is asking the court to find that it is a valid Will, and telling the court that no other action is needed on the estate. The Will says who the beneficiary or beneficiaries are. The Order Admitting the Will as Muniment of Title is signed by the judge, and then a certified copy of the Order and the Will is filed in the real property records of the county where the property is located. That is what transfers title to the beneficiary or beneficiaries. (It basically acts like the deed showing the transfer of title in the real property records.) Certified copies of the Order and Will can also be used to change title to vehicles to the folks named in the Will.
While probating a Will as Muniment of Title will not work in all estates, it should be considered as an option. If an administration is not required, then publication notices, notices to secured creditors, and filing of the Inventory are not required either. Those are required when you have an administration. Being able to skip some of those steps can save the estate some money.
If it has been more than 4 years since the person has died, it is too late to file the Will and get Letters Testamentary issued, but it may still be possible to file the Will as a Muniment of Title if certain requirements are met.
If you have questions regarding probate, please call or send us an email.