General Real Estate Issues

LET THE PROPERTY TAX PROTESTS BEGIN

It’s that time of year again, i.e., the time when homeowners receive their much anticipated tax statements outlining the county’s determination of a property’s value. Many first-time homeowners take a look at the statement and set it aside, not fully understanding the implications of that little piece of paper. Some, however, along with more experienced homeowners, are aware of their absolute right to protest the appraisal district’s assessment of a property’s value. See Section 41 of the Texas Property Tax Code.

Why Protest?

As mentioned, every real property owner in the state of Texas has a right to protest the determination of the appraised value of one’s property. This is not a secret, and our local governments are not hiding the ball. The Dallas Central Appraisal District (DCAD) and most other county’s advertise a homeowner’s right to protest. http://www.dallascad.org/protest.aspx

The real reason a property owner should protest is simple–if successful, a property owner will pay less property taxes to the respective taxing units that year!

How to Protest

Protests will be made to the local Appraisal Review Board (ARB), and this can be done either in writing or electronically through the appraisal district’s web site. According to DCAD, “The ARB will not accept protest filings by facsimile or e-mail submissions. The Appraisal District has forms for protesting, but an official form is not necessary. Any written notice of protest will be acceptable as long as it identifies the owner, the property that is the subject of the protest and indicates apparent dissatisfaction with an action or decision taken by the Appraisal District. Please identify the property in question (property address/account number); state the nature of the protest (i.e., market value) and it is helpful to attach any applicable documentation that you would like for us to review. If using the Online Protest Program, you need to follow the simple instructions for filing your protest online.”

Deadline to File a Protest

Homeowners have until May 31 of each year,  or 30 days after notice of your assessed value is mailed to you, whichever is later.

What Happens After a Protest is Filed?

  • Informal Hearing with Appraisal District – After a homeowner files a protest, they will be notified of a date and time to meet with an appraisal district staff member. At this informal hearing, homeowners may present any documentation they have compiled that lays out exactly why the assessment of the property value is wrong. If the appraisal district staff member agrees with the homeowner at this informal hearing, victory for the homeowner may be declared. If there is a disagreement, however, the homeowner must be heard formally before the ARB.
  • Formal Hearing Before the ARB – A formal ARB hearing is akin to a homeowner’s “court case,” where they will appear and present their arguments before a panel (appraisal review board) and staff members of the appraisal district. The hearing is quite short (don’t expect a morning session, recess for lunch, followed by an afternoon session). After arguments and evidence are presented by the homeowner and representative from the appraisal district, the ARB will issue its recommendation, which must be approved by a quorum of the board. After the ARB makes a decision, the decision is final. If a homeowner does not prevail, they may seek resolution via arbitration or appeal the decision to the district court (notably, this is where a homeowner must assess (no pun intended) the cost-benefit analysis of appealing to a district court).

Homeowners should be prepared to present well thought out arguments and documentation at both the informal hearing, and if necessary, the ARB hearing. For more information, and for a free 15-minute consultation, feel free to contact one of our attorneys at Renfro Hausheer, PLLC.

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DISCLAIMER

The information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only and is not offered as legal advice upon which anyone may rely. The law changes. Legal counsel relating to your individual needs and circumstances is advisable before taking any action that has legal consequences. This firm does not represent you, i.e., no attorney-client relationship established unless and until it is retained and expressly agrees in writing to do so.

 

 

 

 

TRANSFER ON DEATH DEEDS IN TEXAS–BASIC OVERVIEW

Effective September 2015, Texas became one of more than twenty-five states to allow real property owners to create the aptly named, Transfer on Death Deed (TODD). Codified under Chapter 114 of the Texas Estates Code (not the Texas Property Code), TODDs provide real property owners an affordable alternative to passing title to real property without the need for probate.

What is a TODD?

Simply put, during a real property owner’s (“transferor/beneficiary”) lifetime, he may create a TODD that, at the time of the property owner’s death, transfers his interest in real property to one or more beneficiaries (“transferee”).

While the TODD statute was seemingly intended to offer a new legal “self-help” measure for Texas real property owners, there are numerous provisions to note—a few of which are highlighted as follows:

  • A TODD must contain the essential elements of a recordable deed
  • A TODD must state that the transfer to the intended beneficiary occurs only at the transferor’s death (transferee must survive transferor by 120 hours)
  • MUST be recorded in county deed records BEFORE the transferor’s death
  • A TODD is completely revocable, even if a deed or other document is contrary to the TODD (revoked by filing revocation in county deed records or filing an amended TODD)
  • A TODD MAY NOT be created by an agent acting under a Power of Attorney
  • Effective without notice/acceptance by the intended transferee (but may also be disclaimed by the transferee)
  • A will DOES NOT revoke or supersede a TODD
  • The same capacity required by a person to enter into a contract is also required to make or revoke a TODD
  • If the TODD is made and signed by joint owners, revocation by one joint owner only affects that owner’s interest
  • DOES NOT affect a property owner’s right to sell, transfer, or encumber the property
  • DOES NOT affect homestead rights

Caution–these are just a few basic considerations of a TODD. Many other issues MUST be considered prior to creating a TODD. For example, use of a Lady Bird Deed versus a TODD, implications of the use of a TODD with respect to Right of Survivorship Agreements of joint owners; implications concerning title insurance, etc. To further explore these implications, it is important to speak to an experienced real estate and/or estate planning attorney.

If a real property owner has considered the issues mentioned above and others not discussed in this article, the Texas Legislature has provided an “optional form” of a TODD with instructions for both creating the TODD and instructions for revoking or canceling the TODD. See Section 114.151 of the Texas Estates Code.

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DISCLAIMER

The information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only and is not offered as legal advice upon which anyone may rely. The law changes. Legal counsel relating to your individual needs and circumstances is advisable before taking any action that has legal consequences. This firm does not represent you, i.e., no attorney-client relationship established unless and until it is retained and expressly agrees in writing to do so.

Renfro Hausheer, PLLC