What is a Community Survivor? How does it affect a chain of title? When is a conveyance from a party purporting to be a Community Survivor valid?
A Community Survivor is a surviving spouse who makes a conveyance to pay the debts acquired through marriage, without going through the process of Probate, or having a Final Determination of Heirship proceeding conducted. This type of conveyance allows the Community Survivor to convey all of the deceased spouse’s interest of the community estate to satisfy any existing debts against the community estate.
Texas Estates Code Section 453.003 provides that if there is no qualified executor or administrator of the deceased spouse’s estate, the surviving spouse, as the surviving partner of the marital partnership, may:
A. Sue and be sued to recover community property;
B. Sell, mortgage, lease and otherwise dispose of community property to pay community debts;
C. Collect claims due to the community estate; and
D. Exercise other powers as necessary to:
1. Preserve the community property
2. Discharge community obligations
3. Wind up community affairs
4. This section does not affect the disposition of the deceased spouse’s community property.
The property, however, does not vest in the Community Survivor. Any property, revenue, or other assets that remain after the settlement of debts passes according to normal probate or heirship.
The requirements for a conveyance from a Community Survivor to be valid are that there be community property and community debt. It is not necessary to prove the debt existed upon the day of the sale, only upon the death of the deceased spouse. A debt existing at the time of death is presumed to exist at the time the property is sold by the Community Survivor. Further, a purchaser does not need to prove the proceeds of the sale were used to pay community debts, only that said debts existed. A conveyance of the community property by a Community Survivor is presumed valid as long as nothing in the record contradicts this presumption. It is presumed that the debt existed, that the sale was made to satisfy said debt, and the money was apportioned properly.
If a conveyance from the Community Survivor is challenged, the burden of proof is on the challenging party to prove that the seller did not have authority to make the conveyance and that the purchaser did not qualify as a bonafide purchaser. Challenges of this nature will always be fact specific and should always be reviewed by an experienced Texas attorney.
Mazurek & Holliday PC is a full-service oil gas and energy law firm focused on meeting the energy law needs of our clients throughout the United States. If you have any questions about this topic or any that affect your energy rights, contact our offices.