We do a lot of probate at the Jacobson Law Firm, and I see a common misperception when it comes to real estate: the kids will come in to probate Dad's will,and they've agreed to sell the house and split the proceeds; however, as we get deeper into our discussions, it turns out that nobody probated Mom's will when she died 6 years ago. When I ask why, the answer is invariably, "All of their property was community property so Dad didn't need to probate the will. Besides, Dad had the appraisal district change the house into his name alone, so that should be enough."
There are two problems with this logic. The first is this: when it's time to sell the old homestead, the title company likely won't issue a policy until Mom's will has been probated, because there's no record that Dad inherited her half of the house. If there's no title insurance policy, the value of the house goes way down because the buyer can't be sure he or she is buying all of everybody's interest in the house. Another concern is that here in Texas, a will has to be probated within four years of the person's death; however, there are a couple of ways to clear the title even after four years have passed. It just prolongs the time it takes to complete the probate of Dad's estate, sell the house and split the money.
The second problem is that the folks at the county appraisal district don't give a rip who owns the property, they just want to have somebody on the hook to pay the taxes. They'll change the name and address of the person responsible for the taxes pretty much whenever they're asked to, but that's not an official change of title. In order to pass clear title to real estate, the deed records have to reflect the changes in ownership, by filing one of the following:
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and since I'm a Texas lawyer, it's based on Texas law. As many of you know, my father passed away last October. My mom is fortunate that her son practices probate law and knows probate lawyers. Children of a surviving parent can do that parent a great service by suggesting a visit to a law firm that practices a lot of probate, for a review and recommendations on how to get that brand new widow or widower through a difficult time with one less worry.