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What are the responsibilities of an Executor of a Will/Estate in Texas?

Baytown, TX |

My mother passed away in 2010 and my Uncle (her brother) was names as Executor of her Will and Estate.

According to the Will a few small personal items went to various people with "the residue of my estate, real, personal and mixed, whereever situated to my Daughter".

She owned a home with another person. There was no marriage and I was not a minor at the time of her death. No survivorship rights were stated in the Deed of the home and no mention of the home is in the will other than the quoted text above regarding the residue of her estate.

The home is now listed as being owned by "The Estate of ..." and the other co-owner.

Was the Executor responsible for distributing this her 50% of this home to me after probate? How? Should I have a key? Do I need an attorney?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Having an attorney is never a bad idea, and you should certainly consult with one at a minimum. Executors in Texas have 3 basic jobs. Collect assets belonging to the Estate, pay and resolve proper debts against the Estate and distribute the remaining property in accordance with the Decedent's Will. Wrapped up in those 3 jobs could be a little or a lot of management, depending on a number of facts.

    If your mother co-owned a home with another person, and if you received your mother's interest in the house under her Will, the Executor should have executed and recorded a Special Warranty Deed to reflect the change in ownership as a result of the distribution. Obviously, this assumes that the remaining property (including the house) is sufficient to cover the proper debts of the Estate and the expenses of administration. In the end, you wouldn't own any greater interest in the home than your mother did.

    Divided ownership issues in probate are very common. Many times they present practical problems. Who wants to own 1/2 of a house? It isn't likely that the other co-owner wants to share the residence with you, and nobody wants to buy your 1/2 from you. Most issues like yours are resolved by one co-owner purchasing the outstanding interest, or the co-owners selling their interests to a single third-party. You don't mention the other co-owner much. Have you addressed this concern at all with them?

    If no agreement can be reached, the Court could ultimately order a partition and sale of the property, and the proceeds would be divided at that point. Executors in Texas (except in only some very rare cases) must be represented by an attorney. You might make an effort to contact this attorney to gain a better understanding of where things stand. With your mother passing away nearly two years ago, many of the beneficiary timelines that permit you to request and compel information have lapsed -- meaning that you are now likely entitled to quite a bit of information and action.

    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.

  2. I agree with Attorney James Brian Thomas response. There are so many potential problems that you really should speak to an attorney who can properly advise you depending upon the facts and circumstances. Co-owners are usually responsible for paying the mortgage, interest and possibly the upkeep on the home, depending upon who is living in it and what, if any, lease agreement that may exist (although a lease by one co-owner is a risky business). Your daughter should investigate as to the amount of equity (if any) in the home and is the home worth pursuing. Also, a deed may have been filed with the county real property records showing both your daughter and the other co-owner owners, but the CAD may still list the home as "co-owner & Estate of ...." if the proper paperwork was not filed with the CAD. Other issues: If someone fails to pay the taxes then there is always the possibility of foreclosure. If a tenant is leasing the home, then the co-owners should be dividing any rentals received (less any mortgage, upkeep expenses, property taxes, insurance etc.). It is also important to make certain someone is paying for insurance on the home; if there is no insurance and the home burns or floods, it could be a great loss. The Executor should deal with these issues and if not, then your daughter should hire a probate or real property attorney to protect her interest in the home (and any other property the Executor may have failed to deliver to your daughter). I am sorry for your loss and I hope that you and your daughter resolve this matter in a timely manner without any rancor. Take care.

  3. When you say the property is listed as being owned by "The Estate of...." I assume you mean you found this information off the local tax or apprasial district sites? This does not mean the estate owns the house by title, only that the taxing authorities are looking to the estate and co-owner for the taxes. Eventually one-half of the value of the home should be transfered to you by the Executor and you will become a co-owner. At that time, both co-owners will be responsible for paying the mortgage, interest and possibly the upkeep on the home, depending upon who is living in the home. The Executor could force the sale of the house in certain circumstances. Usually each co-owner has the right to possession of the house, but the other owner may have some sort of homestead right by law. You should consult an attorney to discuss your rights, or at least contact the estate's attorney.

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