Welcome to the Kazi Law Firm! We are a boutique law firm steeped in Texas tradition personifying the warmth and congeniality consistent with southern hospitality. We believe in preserving integrity and professionalism with true Texan charm, staying true to our roots, while providing essential, affordable legal services to all. Located just north of Dallas, Texas in the rapidly growing suburb of Frisco; the Kazi Law Firm concentrates on contracts drafting and review, immigration law, will & estates, real estate law, landlord, tenant, mediation, and general business law needs.
People often say they are dying to buy or sell a home, but what happens when one of the parties to a transaction actually dies before closing? It’s not a topic we think about often, but unfortunately, it is a reality of life.
Did Someone Die of COVID-19 Here?
A question that comes up more often lately is, does the seller or agent have to disclose if someone died of COVID-19 in a house that is being listed for sale? Under Texas property laws, a seller or seller’s agent has NO duty to disclose a death from natural causes, suicide, or an accident unrelated to the property’s condition. (Texas Property Code, section 5008[c]). Death from COVID-19 falls under natural causes and does not have to be disclosed.
Now you must be wondering, what types of death must be disclosed under Texas law? A murder that occurred in the home, if known to the seller, must be disclosed. This includes a murder that predates the seller’s possession of the property IF the seller is aware of it. Additionally, a death caused by the property’s condition, even if the death was accidental, and even if the condition that caused the death was subsequently remediated. An example of this would be a rickety, dilapidated or loose stair railing or banister, which sends someone plummeting to their accidental death. Both of these types of deaths are considered “material” information that a prospective buyer would want to know.
Seller’s Death After a Contract is Signed
Contrary to what most people think, the death of a seller does not automatically terminate the contract. The signed contract is still binding on the seller’s estate, and the buyer still has the right to purchase the property under the existing terms and conditions of the contract. The death must be communicated to the buyer’s agent with the message that the closing will be delayed due to probate issues.
Remember, a buyer may not be willing or able to wait to close on the property. If the buyer is in the early stages of the contract, he may be able to terminate under the inspection period provision. Regardless of whether the buyer wants to terminate or continue with the purchase, the seller’s heirs must speak to an estate attorney as soon as possible.
Who Can Sign on the Deceased Seller’s Behalf?
It’s a great question! Who can legally sign on behalf of the deceased seller depends on how the property was held by the seller. If the property was a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the title passes to the surviving spouse. In this case, the surviving spouse can sign all necessary documents, and the closing likely does not have to be delayed. The surviving owner would be required to get a death certificate and prove how the property was held. You would need to look at the deed for this information.
Now, if the deed under which the joint sellers took title refers to a tenancy in common, probate will be required. If there is only one seller who holds title to the property, probate will also be necessary. Probate is the legal process where a court recognizes a person’s death and determines who can sign on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
Buyer’s Death After a Contract is Signed
In this scenario as well, the purchase contract does not automatically terminate if the buyer dies. It is still binding on the buyer’s estate, subject to the terms of the contract.
One last scenario to consider is what happens when death occurs in the middle of the transaction? Texas Estates Code, section 114.104, provides that the person named in the TODD (Transfer on Death Deed) takes the property when the owner dies subject to liens and contracts to which the property is subject to at the owner’s death. This means that the new owner under the TODD steps into the seller’s role under the contract and can sign closing documents and receive the proceeds from the sale. If the TODD was prepared properly and recorded, there will be a minimal delay for closing.
I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”
As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!
Why swim alone in shark-infested waters when you don’t need to?