Fort Worth, TX asked in Estate Planning, Real Estate Law, Libel & Slander and Probate for Texas

Q: Our parents died 37 hours apart in 2018. Their will was basic and simple just naming the other as beneficiary.

My then new born brother was named the executor. 67 years later both parents passed within 37 hours. Our mother was mentally incapacitated. My brother began his role as executor even though he had a long history of drug abuse, had been batteling cancer for 7 years in poor health. The farm was divided according to a plan my dad had left for us even writing it was not official and he had written "void" with no explanation. Executor brother divided according to dad's plan which made note that I would be left short and to equalize my inheritance a monetary sum would come to me from any profit made off the top of the house which we would all inherit equally. My brother told we didn't need probate because of expense and I signed off. Now, 5 yrs later, brother has died and my sister's son wants to buy the house, my sister told me I wasn't going to get that money. My brother's fiduciary duty was to be honest and several people knew his plan that was kept a secret. What can I do? If anything.

1 Lawyer Answer
Ronald Lee Baranski Jr
Ronald Lee Baranski Jr
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Allen, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: I'm sorry for your loss, In Texas a Will must be submitted for probate within 4 years unless the applicant can show a valid reason as to why it was delayed. Here there was no probate. I would be interested in how the brother divided anything if it involved real property. Though he could write up deeds conveying property to people, they would not be valid because no Court had given him the power they would have in Probate court. If he didn't have letters of testamentary issued by the probate court, then any conveyance would be void and would legally just remain owned by his parents. When you say you "signed off," it is unclear. Do you mean you just agreed to proceed as he planned? While it is not required that you go through probate, and if you're just dividing up personal property, then you don't need probate when it comes to real estate unless your brother was the owner on the deed prior to death. He has no authority to deed property to anyone. If the house was owned by your parents, it is likely still owned by their estate. There are other ways to address this outside of probate with affidavits of heirship. An attorney would need more facts to determine how best to address this issue. You should consult with a probate attorney. You can look here on Justia for a probate attorney in the county where the property is located. That is typically the cheapest option though with Zoom you can probably consult with any probate attorney.

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