I can only imagine how difficult and devastating it is for someone to lose his or her spouse. For those of us who haven’t had to experience that grief, we likely know someone who has.
My wife and I lean on each other for so many different things. She is extremely proficient in health and medicine, and she always makes sure I go in for my routine checkups. I enjoy working with numbers, so I handle most of our finances. Without her, I would go years without even thinking about going to the doctor. More importantly, I would be lost when it came to caring for our newborn baby girl. Without me, she would likely need to consult with family about how to handle certain financial matters.
Even when a surviving spouse is the one who has always handled the financials and taxes, he or she could very well miss something important with regards to property taxes. As a property tax consultant, I have seen this happen way too often and it can cost the surviving spouse thousands of dollars that they likely won’t get back.
When a spouse passes away, there will be a deed change that removes that person’s name from the deed of the property. What often goes unnoticed is that the exemptions that were applied to their homesteaded property will automatically fall off when the deed change is recorded in the appraisal district’s system. That goes for any deed change, such as a simple name change or moving the home’s ownership into a trust or LLC.
My wife and I are co-owners of our house. If I died and she then was listed as the sole owner, our homestead exemption would fall off. Even for folks who are somewhat familiar with their property taxes, they may not realize this has occurred. For those folks who have never dealt with property taxes, how would they know that they need to get their exemptions re-applied?
I have seen this circumstance far too often recently, and it’s important for folks who know someone who has lost his or her spouse to bring up this topic. Better yet, you can even look up that person’s property on the appraisal district’s website and check to see if the exemptions that were applied previously are still applied today. If a deceased or surviving spouse is over 65, it’s crucial to make sure the over 65 exemption is also applied in addition to the homestead exemption. The burden and grief of losing a spouse need not be compounded by paying thousands more in property taxes than one should be paying. We need to look out for one another.
To check yours or someone else’s exemptions in Travis or Williamson County, go to the property search page at www.traviscad.org or www.wcad.org, respectively. You can also call the appraisal district if you have specific questions about your property and/or exemptions.