What Happens If You Pay Someone Else’s Property Taxes In Texas?

In Texas, you cannot assume ownership of someone else’s property by simply paying the balance of unpaid property taxes. However, you can purchase real estate, often at a discounted rate, at a tax foreclosure sale.

According to Texas Tax Code § 32.01, a tax lien automatically attaches to real estate on January 1 of each year to secure the payment of property taxes. This lien allows the government taxing unit to file a foreclosure lawsuit when property taxes become delinquent. 

If the foreclosure lawsuit is successful, the court will issue an order for the property to be sold to pay the delinquent tax balance, including penalties, interests, and other costs. The property will then be sold to the highest bidder at a public auction, and the winner will become the new owner of the property. 

Does Paying Property Tax Give Ownership In Texas?

No. Simply paying property taxes for a piece of real estate is not enough to establish ownership under Texas law. Rather, the property belongs to whoever has “clear title,” regardless of who pays the taxes.  

The term “clear title” means that no one besides the owner(s) has a financial interest in the property, and no one else can make a legal claim of ownership. Generally, to establish clear title, you’ll need to be able to show that the ownership history of a property can be traced through property deeds recorded in the county property records.

The issue of clear title commonly arises when children inherit the family home from their parents after they pass away. In some instances, a child might not record their deed, but more often, clear title becomes a problem when the parent dies without a will, and the property is informally passed down to the next generation.

Does a Sibling Paying Property Tax On Our Deceased Parent’s House Give Them Ownership?

No. A sibling cannot obtain ownership of your deceased parent’s home simply by paying the property taxes.

There are several different ways that your parent’s home can be passed on after their death. For instance, if the home was jointly owned, the other owner might be entitled to assume full ownership upon your parent’s death. Similarly, your parent may have recorded a Transfer on Death Deed, where the title to the property would automatically transfer to another person upon their death.

Homes can also be inherited through a will or trust, and if there are no estate planning documents that dispose of the house, default Texas intestacy laws will determine who inherits the home.

While there are many valid methods by which you can obtain ownership of your deceased parent’s home, paying property taxes is not one of them.

Can I Contest Ownership of a Property?

Yes, in some situations, you can contest ownership of a property.

For instance, when a property is disposed of in a will, you may be able to contest the validity of the will under certain circumstances. Additionally, if an inherited property was not properly recorded, you will likely need to file a case with the probate court to obtain clear title.

These are just a few of the ways that you can contest ownership of a property or clear your title to a family home. The law creates a variety of potential remedies for these types of disputes, and determining the right one for your situation will require a detailed analysis of the specific facts involved.

Because these issues are confusing and often legally complex, it’s vital that you discuss your circumstances as soon as possible with a Texas probate litigation attorney. An experienced lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine the best course of action to secure clean title to your property.

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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