Sister lets Mom’s House Waste Away for Lack of Legal Action

Dear Mr. Premack: My mother passed away in 2006 and named my older sister Executor. Now it’s 2014 and mother’s Will has not been probated. The house we grew up is rotting away and unoccupied. What rights do my younger sister and I have? How can we get all of this settled considering that our older sister moved out of state in 2009 and has yet to probate our mother’s will? – CRT

You have likely read in my previous columns that there is a time limit in Texas for the appointment of an Executor under a Will. The legal limit is four years from the date of death. Your older sister did not offer your mother’s Will for probate within the legal time limit, and thus the law forbids her and anyone else from becoming Executor of your mother’s estate.

If your older sister had probated the Will and become Executor, she would have been legally responsible for doing as the Will instructed. Assuming that the Will would have left the house in equal shares to all three daughters, after probate of the Will she would have filed an Executor’s Deed with the local county clerk’s office. That deed would have transferred ownership to the three daughters and would have informed the public that your mother is no longer owner of the house.

However, because your older sister failed to perform her responsibility, the public record still shows your mother as owner of the house. To settle the estate (now that the legal four year limit for appointment of Executor has expired) and to change the public record to identify the new owners of the house, you must consult with a skilled probate attorney to choose between three legal options: