Case Study: Default Judgements on Inherited Property

Probate law can be a confusing and overwhelming process for those who have recently inherited property. In Texas, probate law governs the distribution of a deceased person’s assets, including real property. When an individual dies, their assets must pass through probate before they can be distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. In this blog post, we will be discussing a case study on the challenges faced by an individual who has received a default judgement on an inherited property and is trying to sell it. We will explore the options available to navigate the Texas probate law and the 4-year wait required by title companies.

Facts & Procedural History

The client, a resident of Texas, has recently received a default judgement on a property that was inherited. The judgement came as the original person who acquired the property has since passed away and his living wife had not responded to citations from the court. The client is now trying to sell the property, however, title companies are requiring a four-year wait for a default judgement. The judgement was final and unappealable, divesting the original person over to the client.

Understanding Default Judgement

A default judgement is a legal determination made by a court when a defendant in a lawsuit has failed to respond to a summons or complaint. In this case, the living wife of the deceased person who acquired the property had not responded to citations from the court, resulting in a default judgement. The judgement is final and unappealable, which means that it cannot be challenged in court. However, the client is facing difficulty in selling the property due to the four-year wait required by title companies.

Navigating the Four-Year Wait

The four-year wait required by title companies is a common practice in Texas probate law. It is intended to ensure that any potential heirs or beneficiaries have had sufficient time to come forward and challenge the distribution of the deceased’s assets. In this case, the client has received a default judgement, which should serve as proof that the original person who acquired the property has no further rights to it. However, the four-year wait remains in place.

Option 1:

Petitioning the Court for a “Determined Heir” or “Heirship” Proceeding: One option for the client would be to petition the court for a “determined heir” or “heirship” proceeding. This is a process where the court formally determines who the legal heirs of the deceased are and their entitlement to the deceased’s assets. If the client can prove that they are the legal heir to the property, they may be able to sell it without the 4-year wait.

Option 2:

Petitioning the Court for an “Affidavit of Heirship”: Another option would be to petition the court for an “affidavit of heirship” which is a legal document that identifies the heirs of the deceased. Once the court approves this document, it can be used in place of a probate proceeding for the transfer of the property. This would allow the client to sell the property without the four-year wait.

The Takeaway

Inheriting property can be a confusing and overwhelming process, especially when navigating the challenges of Texas probate law. The case study discussed

Petitioning the court for a “determined heir” or “heirship” proceeding or an “affidavit of heirship” are two options that can potentially allow the client to sell the property without the 4-year wait. It is important to consult with a Texas probate attorney to understand the specific requirements of the court and the best approach for the individual’s situation. Additionally, it’s important to note that default judgements can also be set aside, if the defendant can prove that they have a valid defense or that they were not properly served with the complaint and summons. In these cases, the judgement would be set aside and the case would proceed as if the default had never been entered.

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The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.

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