Court Reverses Trial Court’s Order Denying An Application To Probate A Will As A Muniment of Title

by Winstead PC
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In Ramirez v. Galvan, a probate court denied the application for probate of a will as a muniment of title where the application was filed more than four years after the testator’s death. No. 03-17-00101-CV, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 222 (Tex. App.—Austin January 10, 2018, no pet. history). The applicant appealed. The court of appeals stated:

Pursuant to section 256.003(a) of the Texas Estates Code, a will must be submitted for probate within four years of the testator’s death. After expiration of the four-year period, a will may be probated as a muniment of title so long as the proponent is not in “default.” As used in section 256.003(a), “default” means failure to probate a will because of the absence of reasonable diligence by the party offering the instrument. The burden is on the party applying for the probate to demonstrate that he was not in default. Whether the party applying for probate is in default is usually a question of fact. Mere ignorance of the law does not excuse failure to file probate proceedings within the four-year period. Texas case law is quite liberal in permitting a will to be offered as a muniment of title after the four-year limitation period has expired.

Id. The court of appeals held that the trial court’s finding that the applicant was in default was against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. The court held that before the decedent’s death, the applicant started paying her debts. Further, the court noted that:

Right away, he distributed her property according to her wishes, as expressed in the will and in the non-testamentary document. On the belief that the intent of the will had been accomplished, he continued to live in the house believing that he now was the sole owner.” Ulises testified that he thought the way Olivia “willed her interest” in the house was sufficient. As soon as he learned of the title problem, he consulted counsel as advised by the title company, and the application for probate was promptly filed. It appears that Ulises did not offer the will for probate, not through any lack of diligence, but because he did not realize any further act was necessary. This Court has considered and weighed all the evidence, some of which has been set out in this opinion, and has concluded that the probate court’s finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence so as to be clearly wrong and unjust.

Id.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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