A Muniment of Title is an alternative method of probating a will that is unique to Texas. Probating a will as a Muniment of Title is more efficient than a full probate appointing an independent executor which often results in significantly lower costs. Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to the Muniment of Title option which I discuss further below. You should consult with an attorney to determine whether probating a will as a Muniment of Title is appropriate for your situation.
What are the requirements to probate a will as a Muniment of Title?
The requirements to probate a will as a Muniment of Title closely follow those required to probate any will, with two key additions:
- The estate cannot have any debts other than those secured by liens on real property; and
- There can be no other need for administration of the estate.
What are the advantages of probating a will as a Muniment of Title?
There are several advantages to probating the will as a Muniment of Title – with the biggest being money. Because of the streamlined process, the costs involved in probating a will as a Muniment of Title are significantly less than a full probate. There is only one court hearing and no need to provide notice to beneficiaries, creditors, or to file an inventory, appraisement and list of claims.
Another benefit is that there is no executor appointed by the court when probating the will as a Muniment of Title. This means no one is subject to the duties, responsibilities, and potential liabilities of serving as executor of the estate. This also means there is no additional proof requirements for someone to qualify as executor of the estate.
What are the disadvantages of probating a will as a Muniment of Title?
While there is some advantage to not appointing an executor as in a full probate, this is also a disadvantage. No executor means that there is no one individual responsible for overseeing the collection of assets and distribution to beneficiaries. That also means that should a need to administer the estate come up after the will is admitted to probate as a Muniment of Title, then the estate will have to start over with a full probate to have a court appoint an executor which results in an increase in costs.
Another important consideration is that probating a will as a Muniment of Title may not be effective to transfer all property held in the testator’s name. I discuss this further below.
What type of property can you transfer using the Muniment of Title process?
In theory, any property is subject to transfer by probating the will as a Muniment of Title. The Texas Estates Code states that:
“A person who is entitled to property under the provisions of a will admitted to probate as a muniment of title is entitled to deal with and treat the property in the same manner as if the record of title to the property was vested in the person’s name.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t true in the real world. Probating a will as a Muniment of Title has proven most effective for transferring title to real property and to automobiles registered in Texas.
A Muniment of Title may not be effective for transferring other types of property. For example, bank accounts and brokerage accounts without POD designations may not accept an order under a Muniment of Title proceeding. Life insurance without a beneficiary designation will often not accept an order probating a will as a Muniment of Title to transfer property.
If the deceased owned property in another state, then probating a will as a Muniment of Title in Texas may not allow you to take advantage of the ancillary probate options available in the other state.