A Muniment of Title proceeding is a shorter probate proceeding that transfers title to real property. If the property is located in the County where the probate occurred, then no further action needs taken. If, however, the property is located outside of the County of probate, then it will be necessary to obtain a certified copy of the Order probating Will as a Muniment of Title and a certified copy of the Will. These documents will need to be recorded in the property records of the County where the property is located.
When it is time to wind up the probate proceeding involving Letters Testamentary, one of the last steps is transferring the assets to the beneficiaries under the Will. The type of asset will govern the required documentation necessary to effect the transfer. For real property assets, a Distribution Deed may be prepared for the Executor to sign, transferring title to the beneficiary. Transfer documents for the Department of Motor Vehicles will be required when transferring title to vehicles. Financial assets may be transferred in kind or sold and the proceeds split, depending on the type of financial assets and the beneficiaries. In some instances, an assignment of interest may need to be executed.
Depending on the requirements of the Court where the probate occurred, it may have been necessary to have the Court determine the heirs. Whether the Judge signed a Declaration of Heirship or there was merely and independent administrator appointed, it is necessary to transfer title to the rightful heirs. The same process discussed above under Letters Testamentary applies to Independent Administration. The transfer process is dependent upon the type of assets involved.
In a Dependent Administration, it is critical that no distributions or transfers of assets happen without first obtaining Court approval. This is different than all other proceedings in that no actions can take place without prior court approval, or the administrator could be held personally liable. Once application has been made to the Court and the Judge approves the transfer, only then can the transfer take place. The process will be the same as above after Court approval.
Affidavit of Facts Concerning Identity of Heirs
In some limited circumstances, a probate proceeding may not be necessary and title can be transferred by a non-judicial means. In the case of real property or mineral interests, it is possible to transfer title to the heirs based on an Affidavit. The affidavit then gets recorded in the real property records where the property is located. An experienced probate attorney can advise whether the Affidavit of Facts is an appropriate transfer vehicle for your circumstances and can prepare the Affidavit properly.
Oil, Gas, and Mineral Interests
Typically when dealing with oil, gas, and mineral interests, it will be necessary to contact the company directly. Upon receipt of certified copies of the probate documents, many oil and gas companies prefer to send out what is known as division orders for signature. Other companies may send new leases for execution. The important factor to note when dealing with oil, gas, and mineral interests is that each company has their own procedure. Contacting the company directly is critical in properly transferring the interests.
Although most appraisal districts will update the tax rolls with the new owner’s information automatically, this does not always occur. Do not assume the taxing authorities have updated their records. As the Executor or Administrator, you can contact the taxing districts to inquire that they received all of the required information and have updated their records. Sometimes it is necessary to send them a copy of the recorded documents that reflect the new ownership.
If you are the beneficiary or heir that receives the property, it would be a good idea to contact the taxing authorities to ensure they picked up the new ownership information and have the correct information in their records. This will truly save you a headache when the taxes are due.