Muniment of Title
During a Muniment of Title proceeding, a court recognizes your loved one’s Will as valid and records it on the real property records. This validation and recordation effectively act as a Deed, and thereby transfer Texas real estate to the Will’s named beneficiary.
It is most frequently recommended when someone has passed away with a Will, but the surviving family members neglected to probate that Will within the proper statute of limitations period. As a result of that neglect, the Will can typically only be probated as a Muniment of Title. Despite some disadvantages, a Muniment of Title proceeding provides quite a reliable “last chance” to transfer a deceased individual’s real property in many cases. And, it may still even be useful in some cases where the statute of limitations has not yet expired.
Procedurally, unlike Independent or Dependent Administrations, Muniment of Title proceedings do not appoint an Executor or Administrator to manage an estate’s affairs. No such appointment is necessary because an estate that qualifies for Muniment of Title proceedings is structured in a very straightforward manner that requires no administration.
For example, if your loved one left a valid Will, left no debts whatsoever(apart from those secured by real estate liens), was never on Medicaid, and left no other assets that require an estate administration, then his or her estate might qualify for a Muniment of Title proceeding. Furthermore, it is almost always necessary that your loved one’s Will named you as the sole beneficiary, or that you be the sole surviving beneficiary. (Naming charities or friends as beneficiaries could significantly complicate things.)
By meeting those requirements (among potential others), and thereby sidestepping an administration, a Muniment of Title might be a less expensive option; however, it is not necessarily the best option.
First of all, for a straightforward estate with a valid Will and a harmonious family, a Muniment of Title proceeding is only slightly less expensive than an Independent Administration.
Further, a Muniment of Title proceeding does not provide the valuable benefits of an Independent Administration. Remember, a duly-appointed Executor has broad legal authority to act on behalf of your loved one’s estate. If, for example, your family learned about one of numerous potential probate assets that your loved one may have left behind, then an Executor would need to exercise his or her administrative authority to disburse that asset to the rightful beneficiaries. So, in some cases, a family might choose to pursue a Muniment of Title to save a little money upfront, but then eventually need to pay for further estate administration proceedings anyway. Penny wise. Pound foolish.
Finally, Muniment of Title proceedings are unique to Texas. This means that, if your loved one left non-real estate assets in another state (such as certain investment accounts that might require probate), then the transfer agent for the associated financial institution might not recognize a Muniment of Title as sufficient authority, and might not transfer those assets to your family. Even when a Munitment of Title works perfectly in Texas, it might totally fail out-of-state. Consequently, as in the earlier example, your family might need further estate administration proceedings anyway, increasing overall probate costs for your loved one’s estate.
Ultimately, it is necessary to consider a variety of factors and circumstances that may influence whether a Muniment of Title is a good choice.