Ramirez v. Galvan, No. 03-17-00101-CV, 2018 WL 454733 (Tex. App.—Austin Jan. 10, 2018, no pet.).

Estate Administration

Late Probate


The trial court refused to admit the testatrix’s will to probate as a muniment of title because the proponent (her surviving husband) filed it more than four years after her death. The appellate court reversed.


The court explained that a will may be admitted to probate after the four year period if the proponent is “not in default.” Estates Code § 256.003(a). In this case, the proponent did not think it was necessary to probate the will. It was only when he later wanted to sell the marital home that he realized that probate was needed to establish the chain of title. The court reviewed the case law and concluded that “Texas law is quite liberal in permitting a will to offered as a muniment of title after the four-year limitation period has expired.” The court even found several cases in which the court held that the proponent’s belief that probate was not needed was an adequate excuse.


Although the court did not think a not-in-default status was achieved as a matter of law, the court reviewed the proponent’s actions to determine that he “did not offer the will for probate, not through any lack of diligence, but because he did not realize any further act was necessary.” Thus, the court held that the trial court’s finding of default was “so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust.”


Moral:  As the court stated, Texas courts are willing to admit a will to probate after the four year period on a relatively weak showing of lack of default.