Read about the time limits relating to inheritance issues
by Robert A. Ray
Two Years for Will Contest
In general, if you are contesting a will, you need to file a contest in court within two years after the will has been admitted to probate.
Heirships After 2014
When you can’t or are not contesting a will but just trying to obtain your inheritance and the decedent died after January 1, 2014 there is no statute of limitation.
Heirships Before 2014
If the decedent died before January 1, 2014 there may be a four year statute of limitation depending on the circumstances but maybe not!
Basic Rule: In general, a Texas will contest must be filed within two years from the date the will is admitted to probate, not two years from death.
It is advantageous to contest a will before it has been admitted to probate or even before it has been filed. But the two year statute of limitations allows you to contest a will in Texas even if it has been admitted to probate.
In Texas, you have two years after a will is admitted to probate to file a will contest. Note, it is not two years from death or even two years from the date the will is filed for probate. It is two years from the date the will is admitted to probate. A person has four years after death to file a will for probate so the date of death is not the determining factor.
Four or More Years
If you are not contesting a will but just trying to obtain your inheritance, the statute of limitations may give you more time. See the article on heirship.
What does admitted to probate mean?
When a will is filed for probate, the clerk puts up a notice on the courthouse wall that the will has been filed for probate. Usually, that is the only notice required. They are not required to notify each heir that a will has been filed. After a time, usually several weeks to several months depending on how busy the probate court is, the judge will set a hearing on the will. If no contest has been filed, the judge will admit the will to probate at that hearing. That’s the date when the clock starts ticking. If a will contest is not filed within two year of that date, the will cannot be contested unless it is a forgery or if the contestant was a minor but has now reached adulthood. A good general discussion is here.
The discussions below are about the statute of limitations on contesting a will in different circumstances.
Where there is no will
Declaration of heirship
When a person dies without a will, then the probate procedure is to file an application to declare heirship. Evidence is given in court to determine who the heirs are.
Time limits for a declaration of heirship
The current law says that there is no time limits to bring a suit to determine heirship. Before that law, there was a general four year limitation period. But, the current law may only apply to estates where the decedent died on or after January 1, 2014. 202.0025, 13-19-00154-CV. If the decedent died before that time, then the four year limitations rule may or may not apply. An attorney will be able to advise you.
So, what does this mean? There are cases where illegitimate children are trying to obtain property from their parents or grandparents estates. Others are contacted by an oil & gas company showing that they may have some mineral interest. Depending on the facts, the person may be able to claim an interest or maybe it is too late. In any event, an attorney needs to be contacted to go over the facts and advise you of the proper way to proceed.
You should not take, or refrain from taking, any action based on this article. You should discuss your situation with your attorney who can advise you based on your situation.
If you have a question about a pending or anticipated lawsuit about contesting a will in Texas, use the Contact Us page at the top of the site to see if we can help.
Inheritance disputes involve someone who has taken advantage of the elderly. These cases are complicated and most often, but not always, involve outsiders. We represent you knowing that these inheritance disputes are private and painful family matters. We know this is a stressful time for you. We strive to obtain the quickest and best results possible so that you can get this troubling episode behind you.
Heirship proceeding are different from will contest. If more than four years have passed, it may be difficult, but may not impossible, to gain the inheritance that someone else has that should be the heirs. This is complicated, involving heirship proceedings but there is a possibility that it can be done.
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