Resolving Title Issues on Inherited Property

Inheriting property from a loved one should be a blessing, not a burden. After all, real estate is often the most valuable asset a person leaves behind for their heirs. However, for many families in Houston, inheriting property can quickly become a legal nightmare when title issues arise.

While title issues on inherited property are incredibly common and can be immensely stressful to navigate, you don’t have to go it alone. By understanding the types of title problems that frequently pop up and enlisting the help of a skilled Houston title dispute attorney, you can clear your title and truly enjoy the gift your loved one intended.

Common Title Issues and Inherited Property

So, what exactly is a “title issue“? In simple terms, it’s any defect, irregularity, or unresolved claim that casts doubt on a property’s legal ownership. A clean title is a clear title that definitively states the property’s current owner and is free of any encumbrances or competing claims. Title issues muddy the waters, making it difficult (if not impossible) to sell, refinance, or even insure the property until they’re resolved.

When it comes to inherited property, a host of unique title problems can emerge that may not be immediately apparent. Even if your loved one lived in their home for decades without any ownership disputes, long-buried issues can rise to the surface once the property changes hands through inheritance. Here are some of the most common culprits.

Missing or Unknown Heirs

One of the most frequent sources of title trouble in estate situations is the existence of other potential heirs who could stake a claim to the property. This often happens when the deceased’s will is unclear, outdated, or nonexistent. Amidst the emotion of losing a family member, it’s not uncommon for relatives to come out of the woodwork asserting their rights to the estate.

Sadly, warring siblings, disinherited spouses, and surprise descendants can all muddy the title with competing claims of ownership. If you find yourself in the middle of an heir dispute, you’ll need a seasoned real estate litigator to sort out everyone’s legal rights and bring finality to the title.

Breaks in the Chain of Title

To have a clean title, there must be a clear and unbroken chain of ownership from the original owner to the current one. Anything missing, disputed, or improperly recorded can seriously jeopardize the title.

This frequently happens with inherited property, especially in cases of intestate succession (when the deceased had no will). Legally, when someone dies without a will, their assets pass to their heirs according to the Texas intestacy laws. However, for real estate, unless a new deed is recorded confirming the transfer to the heirs, a break remains in the chain of title.

A skilled title dispute lawyer in Houston can guide you through this process and ensure a new deed is properly drafted and recorded.

Errors in Estate Documents

Even when a loved one leaves behind a will, trust, or other estate planning documents, mistakes within those documents can lead to big title problems down the road. Wills, in particular, are prone to errors, as they are often self-drafted or created from fill-in-the-blank templates without the guidance of a title dispute attorney.

Common errors affecting titles include misspelled names, inaccurate property descriptions, ambiguous language, and improper execution (like missing signatures or witnesses). These seemingly small mistakes can create huge ownership uncertainties. 

Unpaid Liens or Back Taxes

Another frequent source of title trouble is the presence of unpaid debts or delinquent taxes attached to the property. Just because your loved one passes away doesn’t mean their financial obligations disappear into the ether. Creditors they owe can file claims against the estate, including placing liens on real property, to collect what they’re due.

Common liens that can cloud a title include:

  • Mortgage liens, if the deceased still owed money on a home loan
  • Property tax liens for unpaid city, county, or school district taxes
  • Mechanics liens from contractors who performed work on the house
  • Judgment liens if the deceased was sued and owes damages
  • IRS liens for unpaid income taxes
  • Medicaid estate recovery liens for nursing home or long-term care costs

These liens stick with the property and must be satisfied before the title can be cleared, even if you didn’t incur the debt. The executor will repay creditor claims during probate if the estate has sufficient assets. However, if the estate is insolvent, you may need to negotiate with lienholders or even file a lawsuit to remove invalid or expired liens from the title.

Boundary Disputes or Encroachments

Boundary disputes often arise when adjacent neighbors disagree over the location of the property line dividing their land. This can happen due to unclear or conflicting legal descriptions in deeds, mistakes in old surveys, or the existence of physical markers like fences or trees that don’t match the true boundary. 

Encroachments, on the other hand, occur when a neighboring structure partially extends onto your inherited land. This could be a fence, shed, garage, or even part of a house that crosses the property line. In some cases, the encroachment may have existed for so long that the neighbor claims a legal right to keep it there under a theory called adverse possession.

To resolve boundary disputes and encroachment issues, you’ll need a title dispute lawyer to investigate the property’s history, examine old deeds and surveys, and potentially file a quiet title action to establish the boundaries of your land firmly. In adverse possession cases, your attorney can help you assess the validity of your neighbor’s claim and either negotiate a resolution or fight to eject the encroachment.

Contact Our Houston Title Dispute Attorneys

At Pathways Property Lawyers, our Houston title dispute attorneys can help you with all your real estate title issues. If you inherited property recently, call our law firm immediately for guidance. Call us at 832-364-6234 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options. We can help you protect your property and your rights every step of the way.

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At Pathways Property Lawyers, our Houston attorneys are here to answer all your legal questions and help you protect your rights regarding personal, business, commercial or investment properties. Call us or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.

Our law firm has considerable experience in Texas real estate law. We advise our clients on issues related to real estate transactions and litigation throughout Southeast Texas. In addition to real estate, our Houston lawyers have experience in other related areas of law, such as family law, business law, estate planning and probate. This allows us to assist clients with all related legal issues, and to take an holistic approach to your specific matter.

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