Interesting Developments In Inheritance Laws

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Can You Probate A Will After Four Years In Texas?

Probate a will after four years in Texas

Probate A Will After Four Years In Texas

The Texas Estates Code §256.003 (formerly Probate Code, §73,) requires that a will be probated within four years of the death of the testator “unless it be shown by proof that the party applying for such probate was not in default in failing to present the same for probate within the four years…” So the question in all of these late filing cases revolves around the issue of “default” of the one who files the will for probate.

Facts To Consider

In a 2010 case, a Texas appeals court found that the proponent of the will was not in default even though she filed the will for probate more than ten years after the testator had died. The evidence listed by the court was that the proponent had limited financial resources: she testified that she could not afford to pay her former counsel and she had to apply for a loan to fix some doors that were falling apart. Moreover, she testified that her educational background was limited to grade school.  She believed it was unnecessary to probate the will; she did not know there was a time limit to probate a will. The children of the testator never asked for a share of his estate prior to this action. She also believed the the lawyer had taken care of the matter regarding the will. It was not until a third party, the children of the testator, filed the petition for determination of heirship that the proponent became aware of the need to probate the will, and she did so within thirty days of the children’s petition. After reciting these facts, the court said “As such, the record shows there was no absence of reasonable diligence … in probating the … will, and so she was not in default. 324 S.W.3d 257.

Although it is difficult to do because you must prove that you were not “in default,” it is possible to probate a will more than four years after the testator has died.

Case Update:

In a 2016 case, the court of appeals approved a will filed eight years after the testator died. The proponent stated that they did not know they had to file the will for probate and, additionally, they didn’t have the money to probate it. The court said that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but the proponent’s belief that probate is unnecessary, coupled with a concern over the possible cost of probate, can constitute legally and factually sufficient evidence to support admitting a will to probate more than four years after the death of the testator. No. 12-15-00246-CV

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We handle litigation involving inheritance disputes. We don't prepare wills. We handle a select few cases on contingency. Don't use a comment to ask a personal question about an inheritance issue because your name and comment will be public. To ask a litigation question and to protect your privacy, click the red button to the right.


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