Failing to Probate a Will leads to Ownership Distress

This column first appeared in the San Antonio Express News on January 13, 2016.

Dear Mr. Premack:  This is a long story. I do not get along well with my granddaughter, who I finally realized has been taking unfair financial advantage of me. I only had one son, and he had only the one daughter, and my son died two years ago. His wife has not done anything with his estate because he had not made a Will. My granddaughter had a son many years ago – he is now 23 – and I have a wonderful relationship with this great grandson. I want my house to go to my great grandson when I die, but his mother (my granddaughter) insists that I leave the house to her. So there’s a conflict in our desires. To add more information, my husband and I purchased this home in the late 1960s and he died in late 1992. He had a Will, but I never did anything with it and don’t even know where it is anymore, and his name is still on the property tax bill and deed. With all that, my question is how do I go about leaving my house to my great grandson? – M.S.

Let’s start with the earliest date in your history. Your home was purchased in the late 1960’s by you and your husband, and would have been your community property. You owned a ½ interest and he owned a ½ interest. He made a Will – probably leaving his ½ to you – but after he died in 1992 you thought that it was not necessary to take any legal action.

You were incorrect. By assuming that no action was needed, his Will remained private (that is, the public never became aware of his instruction to leave his ½ to you). When four years had pa