Q My husband passed away in October 2019. The attorney who wrote our wills started the probate proceedings a few weeks later. I also requested some changes to my will in March. The last email communication I had with her was June 18. She hasn’t answered any of my email messages and didn’t return my phone call. What do I need to do to get the probate and codicil completed?
A: Your attorney might have caught the virus or come down with some other illness which would explain the lack of response.
If she works at a law firm with other lawyers and employees, you would think that someone else would have picked up the slack, but that does not always happen. You should therefore make a call or visit her office to see if there is a good explanation.
If that gets you nowhere, or if your attorney is a solo attorney with no support staff, then you probably have no option but to get the State Bar of Texas involved by filing a grievance against the attorney. You can find the forms and procedures at www.texasbar.com.
At that website, the first example of lawyer conduct which justifies the filing of a grievance is: “The lawyer does not return client phone calls, emails, or letters.”
You might need to hire a different lawyer to finish up the work she had started.
Q: A couple of years ago, I filed a Texas Transfer on Death Deed and named my daughter as the beneficiary. I have learned there will be a two-year waiting period after my death before my daughter can sell my home. Is this true? Also, does my daughter need to file any other documents or notifications with local authorities after my death in order to sell the property? I am sole owner of the property and unmarried.
A: The two-year wait exists because that is how long creditors have after your death to seek payment from the estate’s assets, including your home.
Many articles have been written on this subject warning that most title companies will refuse to issue title insurance for the full two years. But fortunately, there are actually many title companies that simply will check for debts which exist when the house is sold, and they will insure title if it appears that no problems will arise.
If you are concerned about this potential two-year problem, there are alternatives available. You could revoke the Transfer on Death Deed, and instead create a revocable trust or sign a Lady Bird deed. You could also take the more traditional route of letting your house pass under your will through probate. Your daughter should be able to sell it within a few weeks of your death.
The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Readers with legal problems, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances. Ronald Lipman of the Houston law firm Lipman & Associates is board-certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to [email protected].