Any person who owns a home or piece of property will need to pay an annual property tax. If you receive a piece of land from a deceased loved one, for example, it is easy to assume that this property is automatically yours. However, it is important to remember that simply paying property taxes does not mean you are the legal owner. In order to establish legal land ownership in Texas, you must have a clear title to the property.
What is Clear Title?
Clear title is a term used to describe the legal documentation of property ownership. You obtain a clear title when you have a property deed recorded in your county’s property records that indicates you are the legal owner of the land in question.
To sell a piece of property, you must have a clear title to the land. There cannot be any other legal party who can make a separate clear claim to the land. In addition, there cannot be any type of lien or levy against you or the property that would pose a question to legal ownership.
Every time a piece of property is transferred to a new owner, a document should be created to record this exchange in ownership. There must be a deed available for every new transfer, whether it occurs through sale, inheritance, or gift. There will also need to be documentation showing the transfer of ownership for every single transaction the property has been subject to.
How to Determine Who Has Clear Title
County property records or a reputable title search company are the only ways you can establish who has a clear title. Your yearly tax bill, appraisal documents, or any other document aside from this documentation cannot establish clear title, even if you do pay property taxes. In cases of inheritance, you will need a deed or an affidavit of heirship to prove that you are the rightful owner of the land.
In some cases, the property ownership may be outlined in a will, and a will contest attorney can help you determine who rightfully owns it.
Clear title issues often arise in cases of inheritance. For example, say that you inherit your family home from your parents after they pass away. However, your parents do not create a document establishing the transfer of ownership prior to their passing. You assume that you own the property and begin paying taxes on the asset.
You later decide you want to sell the property and speak to a realtor, who informs you that you do not have a clear title. Your realtor provides you with documents showing that the last time the property has a documented transfer of ownership was when your parents bought the home. In these situations, you will need to bring your case to Texas probate court to resolve these estate issues.
Get Help from a Texas Estate Attorney
Clear title can be very confusing to identify, especially in cases involving inheritance, divorce, and invalid deeds. It can be difficult to navigate this process and officially claim ownership to the land you have invested in. In these situations, a Texas estate attorney can help.
Your lawyer will evaluate your case and determine if you or someone else may be the legal owner of the land. After reviewing the details of the situation, your attorney will recommend your legal options and, with your permission, proceed with your claim in probate court.
As soon as you realize you may not have a clear title to your land, contact Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP to discuss your claim.