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Probate Law

Statutes, books, and online resources on the topic of probate law in Texas.

What is real property?

O'Connor's Texas Probate Law Handbook says (p. 762): 

Real property is generally defined as land and whatever is erected or growing on or affixed to land.

Real property commonly refers to a house or a parcel of land, including the rights to use, rent, or sell the property as the owner sees fit. Mobile homes are sometimes considered real property and sometimes personal property.

Texas Law

What are property deeds?

When discussing real property transfers, it's important to understand the distinction between deeds and titles:

  • A title refers to property ownership. It is not a document but rather the right to use, rent, or sell the property.
  • A deed is a legal document that transfers the property ownership. It is commonly used when buying or selling real property.

Special types of deed can specify who inherits the property when the owner dies. Examples include:

  • transfer-on-death deeds (TODDs);
  • enhanced life estate deeds (Lady Bird deeds); and
  • deeds with a right of survivorship.

Real property may also be transferred using an executor's or administrator's deed. These deeds are issued by an estate representative during estate administration

However, deeds are not the only way to transfer title. If the estate didn't go through probate or was settled informally, the heirs may not be listed on the deed at all. They may still own all the rights to the property, but will need to file certain documents to prove their ownership. 

Understanding the Law

How do I transfer real property into my name?

To prove title to real property, you'll need to file certain documents with the county's clerk office. This must be done in the county where the property is located. It will help establish the chain of title, allow you to sell the property, etc. 

The county cannot add your name to the deed or issue a new deed. In some cases, ownership rights will be established through a combination of an existing deed and the new supporting documents.

The specific forms and documents you'll have to file will depend on how the property was transferred:

Method of transfer Documents you may have to file with the county clerk
Transfer on death deed (TODD) or similar

An "affidavit of death" form and a copy of the death certificate.

Estate administration An executor's deed or an administrator's deed issued by the estate representative.
Muniment of title A court order admitting the will to probate as muniment of title and a copy of the will.
Other informal method A copy of the court order or another document that establishes you as the rightful owner.
Never transferred If many years have passed since the owner's death, the heirs may be able to file an affidavit of heirship. The affidavit doesn't always prove legal ownership, but buyers in Texas often accept it.

This is a general overview of the process, which may vary. The county clerk's office can provide information about any local rules and requirements. Talk to an attorney if you need legal assistance. 

Understanding the Law