Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a prosperous new year filled with health, joy and success.

Thank you for being a valued part of our business. We truly appreciate the opportunity to serve you and look forward to a successful partnership in the coming year.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

Do I Really Need a New Survey?


Do I Really Need a New Survey?

When someone buys a home, the question always comes up as to whether they would like to have a new survey of the property or use an existing one provided by the Seller.  To make an informed decision, the potential buyer should understand that a survey is drawing that shows the boundaries of a property, as well as any improvements, easements, building set back lines and other features relevant to the owner’s use of the property.  With that understanding, and assuming that the seller does in fact have an existing survey, there are several questions that the potential buyer should ask.

  1. Does the seller’s existing survey accurately depict the property? The potential buyer has been to the property and should be able to look at an existing survey and determine if the drawing looks the same as the property looked in person.  Google maps can also be a good way to compare an aerial view of the property to the survey.  If there is a variance what is shown on the existing survey and what is actually on the property, a new survey should be ordered.
  2. How old is the existing survey? As long as there have been no changes to the improvements, easements or building set back lines, title companies will typically accept surveys that are less than 10 years old (and even older if you ask nicely).  However, there have been huge advances in the technology used by surveyors, such as GPS, which allow for much more accurate measurements.  It is not unusual for us to see a platted 50’ X 100’ lot actually be slightly smaller or larger using modern technology.
  3. Is the surveyor who performed the existing survey still in business? Surveyors are licensed by the State and carry Errors and Omissions Insurance to cover them in the event of a mistake.  Most surveys contain language that they are only certified to the purchaser and title company shown on the face of the survey, but the knowledge that the surveyor is still in business or at least available in the event of an issue can be important.


Assuming the existing survey is accurate and acceptable to the title company, Realtors that we deal with are split on whether they advise their clients to have a new survey performed.  The primary reason to use an existing survey is to save money.  The price range for residential surveys is currently between $350.00 and $550.00.  While this may appear to be a substantial amount, when one considers that the purchase of a home is probably the largest investment they will make during their lifetime, the cost is actually minimal.  Potential buyers should also keep in mind that a new survey will be certified by the RPLS for that buyer, giving the buyer additional protection in the event of a boundary dispute.

If you would like to use a knowledgeable title company conveniently located in the Heights, please give us a call.  Fidelity National Title, 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.


Affidavits of Heirship

An Affidavit of Heirship is a sworn document that sets out the family history of a deceased person.  The primary purpose of an Affidavit of Heirship is to let others, particularly probate courts, title companies and others interested in the disposition of a person’s estate, know the person or persons who will inherit property under the Texas laws of intestate succession and should include information on whether the decedent had a will.  An Affidavit of Heirship may be used in conjunction with probate proceedings, or may be used as a stand-alone document in the event there is not a reason that the decedent’s estate must go through the probate process.

The Texas Estates Code sets forth a form Affidavit of Heirship that is acceptable for use in conjunction with probate proceedings.  This same form when used as a stand-alone document, however, is not acceptable for title company underwriting purposes because it omits several things that are relevant to the transfer of title and which are typically covered by other probate proceedings.  In addition to the family history, title companies require that any will of the deceased be attached, an affirmative statement that all debts of the decedent, including federal estate taxes and any amounts due under the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program, have been paid.  In order to combat fraud, title companies also require that the Affidavit contain a perjury clause, indicating that the affiant acknowledges that lying on the document will subject them to criminal prosecution.  As an extra defense against fraud, title companies also require that the information in the Affidavit of Heirship be affirmed by two disinterested witnesses that are familiar with the family history of the decedent.

Once an Affidavit of Heirship is completed, the title company examiner will review to determine who will be required to sign the documents transferring title.  Typically this will include not only the heirs at law, but any devisees under the will who are not also heirs at law.  Although the title company will determine who needs to sign, they will not typically determine the interest owned by each heir or devisee as the title company does not provide legal advice to the parties.   The title company will ask that all those required to sign to also sign a document designating how much of the proceeds will be disbursed to each signer, so that an agreement is in place before the title transfer occurs.

If you would like to use a knowledgeable title company conveniently located in the Heights, please give us a call.  Fidelity National Title, 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.



Closing Properties in an Estate

Closing Properties in an Estate

It is not unusual for a title company to handle a transaction in which the last person in the recorded chain of title for a piece of property is deceased.  When this happens, title companies must rely on the Texas Estates Code to determine who has authority to sell the deceased person’s property.  A person who dies with a will is said to have died testate.  When a person dies testate, typically the terms of the will dictate who has authority to act on behalf of their estate and what actions that person(s) can take with regard to property.  When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate.  The Estates Code sets forth procedures for probating the estates of both testate and intestate individuals.

Wills are not required to be probated in Texas, however title companies prefer that they be probated and the statutory requirement followed during the probate process.  It typically takes several months to probate a will in Texas.  An application and the will must be filed with the probate court, the court must approve the application and appoint an Executor (generally the person or persons named in the will if the person dies testate) or an Administrator, notices must be published so that creditors and anyone else interested in the estate can make their claim and an inventory of the assets of the estate must be prepared and approved.

Probates where the Will allows for the sale of property and in which the Probate Court appoints and Independent Executor or Independent Administrator do not require any further action by the Probate Court.  If the Will does not allow for the sale of property, or if the probate is a Dependent Administration, Court approval may be required in order for the property to be sold.  In a Dependent Administration, there is a four step process that the Administrator must follow in order to sell the property which includes filing an Application with the Court to sell the property, Reporting to the Court that the Property is under contract and getting a Decree from the Court affirming that the property can be sold.  This four step process may take in excess of thirty days to complete.

If you have a property that is currently part of an estate, it is a good idea to contact a title company before you list the property for sale so you can understand both the statutory and title company’s requirements.  This will allow you to set reasonable timing expectations for your prospective buyers.

If you would like to use a knowledgeable title company conveniently located in the Heights, please give us a call.                       Fidelity National Title, 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.




The Texas Homestead and Transferring Title

The Texas Homestead and Transferring Title

Texas law protects an individual or family homestead against forced sale to pay debts of general creditors.  A homestead is generally defined as real property owned by the individual or family where the individual or family resides.  A family homestead may be the separate property of one spouse or community property of both spouses, and a family may have only one homestead under Texas law.  Although property may be the separate property of one spouse, either because it was purchased as or with separate property or was agreed to be separate property by both spouses, the status of property as a homestead brings provisions from the Texas Family Code and Texas Estates Code into play.

The Texas Family Code Section 5.001 requires, with limited exception, that both spouses join in the sale, conveyance or encumbrance of homestead property, regardless of whether the property is the separate property of one spouse.  This means that, even if you inherited your bungalow in the Heights or bought it while you were single, the Title Company will require your spouse to execute any Deed to sell the property, or Deed of Trust if you refinance the existing mortgage or take out a Home Equity loan.  Failure of both spouses to sign the Deed or Deed of Trust means the conveyance was not complete and subjects the Title Insurance company to future claims against the title policy(ies) issued.

Likewise, several sections of the Texas Estates Code are applicable to homestead property.  Surviving spouses and minor children of a deceased person have the right to occupy homestead property after the death of the deceased, even if the deceased had a will that bequeathed the property to someone else.  For example, if a property owner remarries late in life and executes a will leaving his home to his children, the status of the property as homestead gives the new spouse the right to occupy the homestead for the remainder of his or her life.  A Deed from the Executor to the children will not extinguish the surviving spouse’s right to occupy the property, and a Title Company will require the surviving spouse to join in any sale, conveyance or encumbrance of the homestead property.

If you are selling or borrowing against your homestead and would like to use a knowledgeable title company conveniently located in the Heights, please give us a call.  Fidelity National Title, 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.


Continuing Education Class



Instructed by: Trecia Cooke
TREC MCE Trainer #3188
Fidelity National Title #9950
Course #30628
3 CE Credit Hours
$15 Fee

Thursday, July 7th
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Social networking has become a must for today’s real estate with Facebook leading the way.  This class will teach you how to set up a business page, add listings, open houses and solds; how to upload videos into albums, add client testimonials, lead capture features and more!

Please RSVP to Letty Nehls at letty@lairdlaw.net or 281.914.5579