By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When a person dies holding real estate in their name, the property doesn’t transfer to heaven. Some people think the situation can become quite the opposite. The process can be agonizing.

The owner who has died obviously can’t sell their home after they’re dead. The property cannot be sold until their name has been removed from the title. That can be a long and often complicated process. Often the heirs aren’t prepared to deal with the months of upkeep expenses, taxes, mortgage payments, etc. that come with the property.

There are usually two situations when selling an estate property. The owner died either with or without a will to designate their wishes.

If the owner died with a will, the heirs can take immediate action. The will can be entered into probate proceedings with the county court within four years of death. A last will and testament does not automatically cause the real estate to transfer. It is just a statement of the deceased’s intent. The property must legally transfer to another person(s) or entity if it is to be sold.

An Heirship Affidavit may often be used if the will has left the property only to the direct descendants of the deceased. Sometimes, this may be a less expensive and faster process than a probate proceeding.

An Affidavit of Heirship is also required if the deceased died without a will.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When you buy a home, don’t you get a guarantee of clear title? Well … no.

Isn’t that why you buy a property through a title company and get title insurance? To get clear title? Not exactly.

That’s not the phrase we like to use in the title business. Those two words “clear” and “title” together. They can cause anyone within the walls of a title agency to cringe, squirm and scowl. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I had the audacity to use the expression “clear title” in a recent Title Tip. Just pin my tail and call me a donkey. Must have been too much holiday eggnog.

So how do you get clear title to a property? You don’t.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A hidden hazard on your property is not the kind of thing you’re going to stub your toe on. At least not the kind of hidden hazard that we’re talking about here.

In the title business, a hidden hazard is an issue that is not uncovered in a traditional search of property records. Most title companies are really good at finding potential problems in the research of deeds, maps and plats, mortgages, tax records, court records, liens, abstracts of judgement, probate and divorce actions, etc.

Issues that can be found by a typical title search are considered “discoverable.” These would be items like outstanding mortgage loans, tax liens, court judgments, utility easements, and such. Anyone with enough time, resources and expertise could likely find these things in court records and a search of the chain of title. Or they would find most of them at least. 

But even the most fastidious title search may not reveal a hidden hazard. Sometimes they are impossible to uncover until an event brings it to light.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

There are lots of kinds of insurance. There’s homeowner insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, liability insurance … You can insure just about anything of value.

“We focus mostly on property and casualty insurance,” says insurance agent Amanda Campbell of Smith Allen Insurance. But she and other insurance companies offer all kinds of insurance. “You can insurance your pet for loss, accidents, medical bills, and more.”

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A Title Plant is not a big factory that produces property titles. Nor is it a flowering bush used in real estate transactions.

A Title Plant – also called an Abstract Plant – is an operation used as the basis for delivering title insurance. The main focus is on historical records organized by county. The Texas Department of Insurance oversees title plants and states they “shall consist of fully indexed records showing all instruments of record affecting lands within the county.”

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Grab a seat fellow Texans. You may need it when you hear about the way they finalize real estate sales in some of our fellow united states. Let’s start with a peculiar Yankee custom that’s a changin’.

A recent revision to New York property transactions stipulates that it is no longer allowable for buyers or sellers to tip to the title closer. Yes, you heard that right. The long-held tradition in the Northeast of buyers tipping the real estate closer with cash, gifts, tickets, etc., has been squashed by the New York Department of Financial Services. Anyone else getting a chuckle out of the mere thought of tipping your closer?

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

The title industry competes for real estate dollars just like mortgage companies, real estate brokers, and insurance agencies. Competition to be the chosen one is just as fierce and the stakes are just as high.

Changes that rippled through the industry in 2015, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) went into effect, also addressed the regulation about who has the right to choose the title company in a real estate transaction. This rule has actually been around for a while, but is now being regulated and enforced. Which means fines are also assessed to the rule breakers.

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