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.

Muniment of Title

When an individual passes away without a Will, the law determines the heirs of that person and all property of the decedent passes to those heirs in percentages that are prescribed by law.  A Will is a wonderful way for the individual to designate to whom property should pass, eliminating the statutory heirs.    If the individual dies with a Will, but the estate contains only real property that needs to be passed under the terms of the Will, probating the Will as a Muniment of Title may be a more cost effective way of passing title to the property.

Probating a Will as a Muniment of Title is simply presenting the Will to the Probate Court and asking the Probate Court to legally recognize the transfer of title to the property as indicated in the Will.  Unlike the normal probate process, no Executor is appointed, no Inventory is required, and the process is much less time consuming – thus saving money.  Unlike executing Affidavits of Heirship for the deceased individual, probating a Will as a Muniment of Title eliminates title passing to any heirs that were not named as recipients of the property in the Will.

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

Tax Sale Property

Properties purchased at tax sales carry particular concern for title companies.  The Texas Tax Code governs the sale of properties pursuant to a court ordered tax sale.  Under the Tax Code, the deed from a tax sale vests good and perfect title in the purchaser to the interest owned by the defendant in the property subject to the foreclosure, including the defendant’s right to the use and possession of the property, subject only to the defendant’s right of redemption, the terms of a recorded restrictive covenant running with the land that was recorded before January 1 of the year in which the tax lien on the property arose, a recorded lien that arose under that restrictive covenant that was not extinguished in the judgment foreclosing the tax lien, and each valid easement of record as of the date of the sale that was recorded before January 1 of the year the tax lien arose. The deed may be impeached only for fraud.

The redemption period for a residential homestead or property designated as agricultural is two years from the date the tax sale deed is recorded.  For other properties, the redemption period is six months from the date the tax sale deed is recorded.  In addition to the statutory redemption periods, there are also statutes governing the time available for the defendants in the tax suit to appeal the underlying judgment or challenge the sufficiency of notice.  The statutory redemption periods, challenges available to defendants in the underlying suit and ability of the deed to be impeached for fraud create a minefield of potential issues for title companies.  Many title company underwriters refuse to be the first to insure following a tax sale, while others require a minimum of four years to pass following the date the deed is recorded before they will insure.  Closing prior to four years following recordation of the deed can be accomplished, but only with underwriting approval.

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.


Payment of Personal Debts at Closing

At your closing, the Escrow Officer is responsible for clearing matters designated by the title insurance underwriter in order to issue a title policy and for complying with the terms of the contract and any lender closing instructions.  The purpose of the contract is to transfer title to the purchaser, and both the underwriter and lender are primarily concerned with making sure the transfer is done in such a way that there will be no claim and that the lender’s position will be properly secured.   Payments made as part of the closing process will include the payoff of any liens that are attached to the property and all costs associated with the closing of the transaction, such as lender fees, title policy fees, the cost of the survey, etc.

Payment of personal debts of the parties that are not secured by liens against the property and not closing costs is typically prohibited.  Lender’s instructions to the Escrow Officer typically contain language that prohibits the disbursement of loan proceeds if payments are being made for matters that do not affect title and are not a part of customary closing costs.  In addition to this prohibition, title insurance companies do not want to take on liability beyond what is required by underwriting guidelines, so Escrow Officers are prohibited from making payments for non-secured debts of the parties.


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.



What information does Schedule C of the title commitment contain?

Schedule C of the title commitment contains matters that the title company closer, with the assistance of the parties, must satisfy prior to or at closing in order for those items not to appear as exceptions to the title policy, as well as the disclosure of additional information relevant to the chain of title to the property and the rights of the parties to establish an interest-bearing account for funds being escrowed by the title company.  The language in items 1 through 4 of Schedule C is promulgated by the Texas Department of Insurance, so it is standard in any title commitment.

Beginning with item 5 on Schedule C, specific matters affecting the transaction will be listed.  These items may include the payoff and/or release of liens affecting the property, the payoff and/or release of any judgments affecting the buyer or seller, requirements regarding the documents establishing any entity (Trust, Partnership, LLC or Corporation) involved in the transaction, compliance with court orders affecting the property or parties, etc.  The title company closer will have experience in addressing these matters, but much of the information is in the possession of the parties, so the cooperation of the parties is essential in getting the file ready to close in a timely manner.


If you would like to use a knowledgeable and reputable title company conveniently located in the Heights, please give us a call.

Fidelity National Title, 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.


Schedule B

Schedule B of a Title Commitment lists exceptions to, or things that will not be covered by, the Title Policy.  Much of the language on Schedule B is promulgated by the Texas Department of Insurance and are standardized exceptions to title insurance coverage.  Specific exceptions to the property being insured are typically listed under item number 1 and item number 10 on Schedule B.

Item number 1 on Schedule B shows the recording information for deed restrictions and other restrictive covenants that are applicable to the property.  Deed restrictions can be found on the map or plat that established the neighborhood where the property is located, as well as in subsequent documents pertaining to the neighborhood or that are specific to the property and that are recorded in the Real Property Records.  These restrictions may, among other things, establish building set-back lines and easements, establish a homeowners’ association, require the payment of dues and/or maintenance charges, limit the use of the property, or set architectural guidelines for structures built on the property.

Schedule B, item 10 typically sets out any specific exceptions that are applicable to the property.  The exceptions set out under item 10 may refer back to the recording information contained in item 1, or may refer to additional documents.  The title company will also review the current survey of the property and may make additional exceptions based on the review of the survey.  Ownership of minerals is typically an exception to the title policy and will appear on Schedule B as well.

What is an Abstract of Judgment?

            An Abstract of Judgment is a short statement of the result of a lawsuit that is filed in the Real Property Records to give notice to the public that an individual or entity owes money to another as a result of the lawsuit.  The Abstract of Judgment will list the cause number for the lawsuit, the names of the parties to the lawsuit, the creditor (winning party) and debtor (losing party) and amount that is owed to the creditor by the debtor.  Abstracts of Judgment attach, or become liens against, any non-homestead property that is owned by the debtor and must be paid at the time the non-homestead property is sold or conveyed.  The creditor holding an Abstract of Judgment can request that the court allow the Judgment to be Executed, a process by which the property is sold at an auction to the highest bidder.  Execution of a Judgment will divest the debtor, and any subsequent owners, of title to the property – subject to any liens that predate the Abstract of Judgment.

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.

Is My Title Policy Transferrable?

Owner’s title policies are not transferrable when you sell your property. A title policy is issued based on the status of title to property as of a particular date. When an owner purchases property and receives a title policy, the policy insures that the owner is the owner, subject to any mortgage the owner may have taken to purchase the property and any other matters (deed restrictions, easements, etc.) that may affect title to the property.

During the ownership of the property things may change.   The mortgage may be refinanced or paid off, a homeowner’s association may be established, abolished or deed restrictions may be amended. The owner may grant an easement across the property, or an easement may be abandoned. Additional structures may be added to the property or existing structures may be increased in size. Because of these potential changes, title insurance companies must research the status of title even after a short period of ownership.

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.


Clouds on Title

A “cloud on title” is any matter that prevents the owner from having or conveying fee ownership of a piece of real property.  Some matters are relatively common and can easily be taken care of by a payment made at or before closing.  Other matters can be much more complicated, such as a missing deed in the chain of title or a random conveyance by a person who does not otherwise appear in the chain of title.  Title insurance is a great way to protect yourself against clouds on title.