When a person dies without a will, their property (the estate) must be shared according to default rules determined by the State. These are called the rules of intestacy (if you die without a Will, you are said to have died intestate). Attorneys and Title Companies refer to the Texas Probate Code to judge who inherits what has been left behind (home, cash, stocks or other assets).
If a person dies without a valid will, and the deed to his property does not include joint tenancy with survivorship language, then issues may arise as to which persons have title to that house. The property cannot be sold with clear title until the heirship issues are addressed and resolved.
Dealing With the Inherited House
Typically a family member or presumed heir will take over maintenance of the property after the person passes. Maintenance may include obtaining a vacant home insurance policy to protect the estate from liabilities, keeping up with utilities, paying property taxes, maintaining lawn care and disposing of the contents of the house. Keeping up with a house after someone dies can become an overwhelming task, but it’s critical to ensure a minimum of care is in place to protect the vacant home.
Heirs may find it easier to sell the house fast without doing repairs to avoid maintenance, vacant home owners insurance and property taxes. But first they must get clear title.
There are a few ways to determine ownership of a house after someone dies – the most common include probating the Will if there is one, or completing an Affidavit of Heirship if there is not.
Even if there is a Will, some may choose to avoid probate and resolve who inherits the property by executing an Affidavit of Heirship, which saves time and money. If the primary asset from the estate is a home and there are only a few heirs, then avoiding probate may be the best decision.
Two Steps to Sell a House Without a Will
Prepare the Affidavit of Heirship
An Affidavit of Heirship is a sworn statement of facts concerning one’s family history, genealogy, marital status and the identity of heirs of a decedent. It is used to identify who inherits property according to the Probate and Property Codes.
The Affidavit of Heirship must be executed by someone with first-hand, personal knowledge of family history – marriages, births, and deaths. Generally, Title Companies require that an immediate family member and two disinterested parties/ witnesses sign and notarize the Affidavit. Big State Home Buyers often assists sellers when tracking down family members or dealing with communication barriers.
Preparation of the Deed
The second step after the Affidavit of Heirship is complete is to prepare a deed that transfers title to the proper heirs. Both the Affidavit of Heirship and the new Warranty Deed are filed in the Real Property Records of the county in which the property is located and then the heirs may sell the house or other property of the estate.
The concept is simple, but the process can be complicated when there are many heirs, multiple marriages or several generations of people who died without wills. It becomes increasingly more difficult if the heirs won’t work together towards completing the process. Essentially, the more complicated the family story, the more involved the process can be.
At Big State Home Buyers, our in-house Title experts work directly with the Title Companies and communicate with family members to make the process as simple as possible. We prepare these documents at no cost to our sellers.
Many have resolved title issues and settled estates in quick and efficient manners by selling to Big State. A recent seller had a reverse mortgage on her father’s home and multiple title problems that we needed to fix before she could complete the sale. Read Alexis’ story here.
It is best not to attempt to resolve heirship and Title issues on your own, without an attorney. If your loved one dies without a will, Big State Home Buyers will work with the Title Company and a real estate attorney at no cost to you, ensuring title is clear before completing the sale and freeing you of any future liabilities. We pay cash and typically close on your home in 10 to 30 days depending on your situation. Call 713-909-4119 for more information with no obligation.