Probate as a Muniment of Title (“Muniment”) is one of the most basic probate types. A Muniment requires less paperwork, fewer county filing fees, and when it is recorded in a county it serves to “instantly” transfer titles of all of the decedent’s property to his beneficiaries. A Muniment requires that the decedent had a will and also that the estate owes no debts. No executor is appointed with a Muniment, even if the decedent’s will named an executor (logically, an executor’s function is to carry out the terms of a will, but the Muniment does this automatically, which eliminates the need for appointing an executor). Because there is no executor, there are no “Letters Testamentary.” These are documents which a court grants to the executor of an estate. These documents allow the executor to do anything necessary to administer the estate. If the estate is going to require the use of Letters Testamentary, a Muniment is not the correct probate choice.
Even though the Muniment statutorily transfers title to the beneficiaries, in practice the Muniment works best when the person who passed away had an estate made up of only real estate or perhaps real estate and an automobile, and with the real estate and automobile being Texas property. The reason for this is that the Muniment is poorly understood by many businesses with which an executor must deal. Banks and life insurance companies often will not accept a Muniment for the purpose of paying out life insurance policies or transferring bank account, especially if they are businesses with a nationwide presence. These companies as a matter of policy often insist on “Letters Testamentary” to transfer property. So while a Muniment would technically be effective, using one in this type of situation is not practical.
In one special case, a Muniment of Title is the only option that beneficiaries of an estate can use. This is when a person dies with a will, but more than four years have passed since her death. Four years is the most common statute of limitations for probating a will in Texas, so if it has been more than four years a beneficiary’s options have narrowed dramatically.
Is a Muniment of Title the right method for your loved one’s estate? If it is, our experienced attorneys will be able to tell you. If you need to probate an estate (or even aren’t sure if you need to), come and see us at Martin, Millican, Henderson & Shrum. We have been serving the people of Lampasas, Copperas Cove, Kempner, Lometa, Llano, and Bend since 1975. Contact us for a consultation; we will be able to guide you through the Texas probate process efficiently and in the most cost-effective way for your situation.
This blog post only applies to the laws of Texas. The post may or may not match your individual situation. Be careful not to treat it as specific legal advice, as it may not meet your individual needs. It may give you a solid basis for discussion with your own attorney. You should consult with your personal attorney before you take any action on this or any legal issue. Also, please be aware that laws change, so this column is valid only as of the date it was published. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.