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Aunt passed and left home, no will. Three siblings still alive, two want to keep the property, one does not, what can they do?

Wichita Falls, TX |

My aunt passed two years ago in Texas. There are three siblings alive. My father and one of his sisters wants to keep the home my aunt left. The other sister is just "sitting on it". The house and property aren't worth much (more sentimental value), but my father has been taking care of the house for the past 2 years. Is there anything he and his agreeable sister can do to just go over the other sisters' head, and just put the deed in his name, so that it won't be sold? Also, there are taxes owed, and he wants to move on it before the County takes the home.

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Attorney answers 5


Unfortunately no, the property is likely not divisible so if the disagreeable sister pushes the issue and hires an attorney that knows what they are doing she could file suit to partition or sell the property. The best chance is to see if your father can buy out the other sister.


Purchasing the disagreeable sister's interest is likely the best way to go here. Unfortunately, issues like this come up rather frequently when dealing with real property and the absence of a Will.

This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Texas only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Texas. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should never rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship.


Consider buying sister out.

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Your father can seek to have the estate probated. Once the probate is complete, each of the siblings will likely own an undivided 1/3 share. At that point, your father and sister can seek a partition of the estate where the court divides the property into separate shares. In your situation a judge may order that the property be sold and the proceeds divided, or that you and your sister buy out your other sister's share.

One thing to be aware of, is that right now, your dad and siblings probably don't have legal ownership of the property. When someone dies, real property doesn't automatically pass to the heirs. Your dad will most likely have to go through a probate proceeding to get the title transferred in the first place. Your dad and siblings don't have the legal authority to transfer the property by deed, and if they try, it will only cloud the title.

Have your dad and aunts get an attorney to help them work out the situation and take care of the potential probate to make sure everything gets done legally.

Michael Anthony Duran

Michael Anthony Duran


You stated that "When someone dies, real property doesn't automatically pass to the heirs." What about Section 37 that states, "whenever a person dies intestate, all of his estate shall vest immediately in his heirs at law....

David Grant Voeller

David Grant Voeller


Good point Michael. My loose use of the word ownership wasn’t completely accurate. Technically, title does immediately vest in the heirs. However, this rule is simply to insure that there is never a suspension in the chain of title. It may be several years before it is determined who those heirs are, and at that point the heirs title relates back to the death of the testator. By legal ownership, I was referring to the legal right to sell the property, which I will concede is only one stick in the ownership bundle — a stick which the heirs currently don’t have. While the property does pass to the heirs, the court must first determine who the heirs are. The rightful heirs won't be able to sell the property (ok, maybe they could if they don’t use a title company) until the court establishes this. In that respect, they won't have the ability to control and dispose of the property in the way one usually associates with ownership - even though as you point out, title has already vested. Basically we just don't know who title has vested in yet.


Always fun when there is no will. One of them has to administrate the estate. If it is determined that all three have an equal share, which is probably the case, then they would have to take it to the probate court and have the judge decide after hearing evidence, unless they can finally agree to take it to a vote.

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