When a loved one passes away family members are consumed with immediate issues regarding the funeral and possibly caring for children and other dependents. If the decedent left a will designating heirs to his or her property, probating the will may initially be pushed to the back burner. It is important, however, that you know what the time limits are under Texas law for probating the will so you do not miss any important deadlines in handling the estate. In this article we will give a basic review of the time limit for probating a will in Texas. If you have questions about wills or need help probating a Texas will, contact Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan for an initial consultation.
Texas law sets a definite time limit on probate of a will brought to court by interested parties. Under Texas law, the paperwork to begin a probate, which includes applications and the will, must be filed in court within four years after the testator died. It is very important to meet with a Texas probate attorney within a reasonable time period after the passing of a loved one to make sure you are within the proper time limits.
Texas law does allow for an exception to the four-year statute of limitations for probating wills. If the person applying for probate was not “in default” for failing to present the will for probate within four years of the testator’s death, the court may allow filing of the will as a muniment of title (used for passing title of property from one owner to the next). Default under Texas probate law means that the person failed to use reasonable diligence in timely offering the will for probate.
As an example of an acceptable excuse for missing the deadline, one Texas court held that a wife was not in default when she had limited resources and thought it was not necessary to probate the will. Five years after her husband’s death, the widow learned from an oil company that her husband was an heir to some oil royalties. When she presented the will for probate at that time, the court determined that she was not in default for missing the four year statute of limitations and probated the will as a muniment of title. Kamoos v. Woodward, 570 S.W.2d 6, 8-9 (Tex.Civ.App.–San Antonio 1978, writ ref’d n.r.e.).
A person who does not know of a will’s existence is not considered in default as long as that person does not act negligently in trying to discover whether there was a will.
Any time you have a situation where you have missed the four-year deadline, the facts about what was known and when are critical. Contact us to speak with an Austin probate attorney who can help determine if the facts of your situation fall within an exception.