Selling an inherited house without a will in Texas presents some challenges, but it can be done. A will can make settling the estate easier, outlining the decedent’s wishes of what should happen with his or her possessions after death. But often times a decedent’s loved ones are left without this important legal document in the event of an unexpected death. This is referred to as dying intestate.
If you owned the house together with the person who passed away, your deed may have specified that you both owned the home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. This means that when one of the owners dies, the surviving partner automatically becomes the full owner. This type of arrangement leaves little confusion as to rightful ownership following a death, unless other family members challenge the survivor’s ownership in court.
If, on the other hand, you and the decedent didn’t own the property as joint tenants, you will likely have to resolve any questions of ownership before you can sell an inherited house. That’s because a title company won’t issue title insurance – which is necessary if you want to sell the house – until this issue is resolved.
Advantages of selling quickly
Resolving the issue of ownership and selling the home as soon as possible while still making sure to abide by the letter of the law is often the best solution for all involved. Especially if ownership is contested or there are disagreements among family members, settling the matter without undue delay may be the best course of action.
In addition, if the home you inherited is unoccupied, it could be more difficult to insure and protect. You could be held liable if someone is hurt on the property, or risk damage or theft if the vacant house is vandalized or burglarized. Some insurers will issue a vacant home insurance policy to help shield you from liability as well as insure the property in case of vandalism, theft, fire, flooding, or other issues. This is an avenue worth pursuing to safeguard against unexpected events.
A home can also start to deteriorate when it’s left unoccupied, particularly if it’s not checked on frequently. This will make it harder to find a buyer down the road.
The longer the home remains unsold, the greater your potential property tax liability. That’s because most Texas homeowners take a homestead exemption to lower property taxes on their primary residences. In the event of the homeowner’s death, however, this discount no longer applies and you may have to pay additional taxes for the time period between your loved one’s passing and the sale of the home.
Obtaining an affidavit of heirship
If the home wasn’t owned jointly with rights of survivorship, you must show an Affidavit of Heirship to sell the property. This sworn statement is designed to name the heirs and establish ownership of the the property.
If, for example, a spouse dies without a will and leaves behind only real estate, an Affidavit of Heirship may allow the surviving spouse to sell the real estate without having to seek court assistance or administration. In Texas, the affidavit must be filled out by a third party who will not benefit financially from the estate of the deceased.
Getting the Information You Need
First and foremost, you’ll need a copy of the decedent’s death certificate. You may also need to do some research on the decedent’s family history to prove that no one else has the right to lay claim to the house you inherited. Essentially, you’ll need a detailed family tree.
If you don’t have this information, talk to other family members and review records such as a family Bible, which sometimes includes a section where families fill out genealogy information. Check for any public records regarding marriages and divorces, because the deceased’s family tree may be more complicated than you realize.
The time to make any discoveries of unknown relatives is now, not after you sell the house and an unknown sibling or other relative suddenly challenges your ownership rights.
Who Fills Out the Information?
The person who fills out the Affidavit of Heirship will have to be personally familiar with the family and marital history of the deceased. This person will also have to provide information including the following:
Marital history of the deceased
Information about any children, including name and address, date of birth, and the name of the other parent
Information about grandchildren, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews
This affidavit must be signed in front of a notary public who will then notarize the document. This certified affidavit must be filed with the county clerk in the county where the inherited house is located. Proper filing of the document will generally satisfy the title company’s requirements.
Conducting a title search
A title search at the county records office should also be conducted to make sure there aren’t any liens or foreclosures against the property. If you don’t live near the county in which the property is located, you can also search online. Any liens or other debts must be satisfied before the property can be sold.
Completing the deed to transfer title
The next step is usually completing a deed to transfer title to the heirs. The deed should state that the listed owners are heirs at law of the decedent. This simply means that the person or persons listed are entitled to inherit the property of the deceased, who has died without a will. All heirs should sign the deed and have their signatures notarized.
Getting the help you need
Selling an inherited house without a will in Texas is a multi-step process that can be confusing and intimidating. Big State Home Buyers can help. As the largest privately-owned home buying company in Houston, Big State Home Buyers has the experience and knowledge to help you sell your inherited house quickly. We treat our clients with respect and genuine concern, without high-pressure tactics. Call Big State Home Buyers today for a free consultation with no obligation.