Is it better to walk away and let the county foreclose on the property to get their taxes?

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My father and mother were married and owned property (less than 2 acres) with a mobile home on it in Texas. They were separated many years but my father continued to live on the property in the mobile home. He also has kids from a previous marriage. We are all adults now and live in different states. In mid 2013, he moved to a different Texas county and was in a nursing home. My father and mother divorced at the end of 2013. They sold the mobile home and were in the process of selling the property; however, he passed away before it got finalized. There was no will that I'm aware of. The issue now is my mom cannot sell it because his half is technically owned by us as heirs or that's what we were informed. There is quite a bit of back taxes owed on the property and my mom has already been receiving letters regarding this. She has been doing her best to try and pay but she is 70 and is on social security. She lives with me and I try supporting both of us and paying most of the bills. We have gone to several attorneys but they were not Certified Elder Law attorneys. We have already spent quite a bit of money consulting with them and just cannot afford anymore. We have heard we can do an Affidavit of Heirship but also that we should do a probate. I don't have contact with all the heirs but I don't think any of us want to step up and do a probate due to the money and hassle not to mention we're all adults and have own lives and bills. I'm also not sure if everyone will sign an Affidavit. Also MERPS is involved and has sent a Notice of Intent letter to my mom which I'm unsure why since they are divorced. We feel like we're drowning because we don't know what to do. She's tried legal aid but they never answer and have an automated voice saying to call back later. Is it better to walk away and let the county foreclose on the property to get their taxes? I'm not sure what happens to MERPS. This is turning into a costly mess.

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Hi Igloo572.

I researched the muniment of title but according to what I read there has to be a will which there is none that I'm aware of. The independent probate would be out of the question for us, again, because of the issue of no will. The research I did indicated that when there is no will involved it most always will need to be handled as a dependent administration. The attorneys we have seen are really unfamiliar with this territory as it really needs to be handled by a Certified Elder Law Attorney due to the MERPS issue and there are none where we live. We also have decided to not spend anymore on attorneys, etc.

Yes, we have been advised that we could do an Affidavit of Heirship. The problem with that is that all heirs would need to sign it and we're really not sure how that would go. My mom has to decide how she wants to handle this. I believe she will be going to Medicaid this week to find out what options, if any, she has. Thanks for the assistance.
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My take on probate is that you need an atty no matter what & I'm currently in independent admistration probate in TX. If doing a muniment of title is an option to settle & transfer the asset then maybe just maybe if you are very very comfortable in a courthouse and assets of the estate are small & uncomplicated then yeah you could on your own do a muniment - these are under 1k and maybe 3 or 4 courthouse runs. independent administration is pretty straightforward sequence of events, costs vary but avg is about 3k. For dependent administration, your right is that it's court overseen as every action needs probate staff verification & you may need to be bonded as well & expect to have in-chambers hearings but also a lot of probate attys. will NOT do dependent administration probate so you may need a atty who does litigation AS WELL as the usual transactional aspect of probate. Litigation practice guys will change more.

Did anybody suggest doing it as a lineal heirship? TX allows for those. If no valid will, a lineal could be something for you all to look at. Now all heirs must be wanting to sign off and prior marriages need to be with settled legal but a lineal is pretty reasonable in costs.

Also for estate recovery for TX, state Medicaid program has an outside contractor -HMS - who deals with MERP.
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Thank you for the info.

Actually we were informed that a probate can be done but it would have to be a Dependent Administration because there is no will that we are aware of. This kind of administration is quite a lot more expensive since the court has to oversee all transactions, etc. and would require atty. So, we'd be paying court costs and atty. fees. We have already spent too much money on this whole thing and there are no Certified Elder Law attorneys here which is what we really need. My mom is going to go down to Medicaid this coming week to see if she can sign her half over because this has now affected her Medicare part D. If not, I don't really know if she can sign or deed it over to the county. We're hoping she can sign it over to Medicaid. Let them worry about everything. This has been extremely stressful, time consuming and expensive. We're both pretty much done.

I do appreciate everyone's help and responses.
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NeedHelp - If there is no valid will, then TX probate cannot be done. It will be a lineal heirship needed or estate escheat to the state.

As far as property taxes & tax sale situation...for TX is pretty convoluted for both the property owner & for investors wanting to buy at tax sale. TX counties tend to place interest & also atty fees onto the property which the owner or family can pay off years later without worry of the property ever going to tax sale redemption. For my TX aunts estate, there was land from prior marriages decades delinquent which actually wasn't too too much money to clear. A lot of TX is nonproductive ranch land with no oil & gas pass through so low value. TX is a lousy state for actually acquiring property at tax sale; interest yes but actual redeption not often. Most states don't take this approach & have tax sale done annually & want property to be redeemed. Like MS is last week of August statewide & after 3 consecutive years of delinquency whomever holds first year position can file in chancery court, pay off year 2 & 3 and get redemption via tax sale; usually afterwards get a Quite Title action done to guarantee ownership if development done but you definitely own the property, transferred to your name, tax assessor issues bill to you; all in for MS in my experience takes about 4 years. For TX after 4 years, your probably at the point where county is just placing attys fees onto the delinquency.
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Too many posts to read them all. Go to the township where the land is. Ask them how to handle it. Can you turn over the land to them. If Medicaid is involved, can u turn it overto them? Without a will, the court may have to determine who are those who inherit.
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Thanks all for answering. Yes, my mom got the actual deed but now she said it's saying something different than it had been before. Not sure what this means. She was finally able to reach an actual person at Legal Aid this morning and they informed her to call on Wednesday morning to see if she qualifies.
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Well, theoretically and technically you're not an heir in reality until the person dies. Prior to that, you're a named heir, to actually be an heir on death of the testatrix or testator or settlor of a trust.

I think the issue of who's liable for property taxes turns on who holds title pursuant to a validly executed and recorded Warranty, Quit Claim or C Deed.

In your case, I don't see how someone who doesn't hold title pursuant to a legitimate deed could be responsible for taxes, but Texas is a different type of state and there could be some nasty law hidden away someplace. You might have to do some research on this, or even just ask the county treasurer's office.

Sorry but I have no experience with Texas Disclaimers of Interest and their scope, so I wouldn't want to try to answer a question without having the time for adequate research. I do think though that a disclaimer of interest would be specific in identifying what you're disclaiming as an interest, i.e., not general or vague.

This is the Texas statutory section; be sure to check out Section 240.002 as referenced as there may be conflicting language.

statutes.legis.state.tx/Docs/ES/htm/ES.122.htm

BTW, did your mother check out the deeds at the county courthouse?
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Heirs, no, but the county forecloses and sells the property at the county tax auction to recover the unpaid taxes. You also need to know how much MERP wants, as that is a lien on the property as well. So if both of those exceed the property value, no heirs get anything and there is no need to disclaim.
Please remember the Executor only distributes the remainder. In your case there may not be any remainder to be given.
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Hi again. I was just wondering if anyone knew if heirs can be responsible for property taxes if there names are not on the deed? I really don't think so but wanted to check here. This is in Texas. I'm worried I can be held responsible for something and am thinking of doing a Disclaimer of Interest. Does anyone have any experience with those? Also, if I do decide to do a disclaimer, could I still be the Executor or Administrator of a probate if my mom needed me to? Thanks.
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If there are no local attorneys in the elder law practice area close to you, search for firms in the closest large city. I always look at the state bar association directory and identify firms with the practice areas that I need.

However, this situation is both a real estate and an inheritance issue; I would look for a firm with attorneys in both practice areas; they can work together, each in their own area of expertise.

I remember from my commercial real estate days that some states don't use the "Warranty Deed" terminology.
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