Do both spouses have to be 65 to apply for a property tax exemption?

Q My wife and I are joint owners of our house. She will be 65 in 2024 and I will be 65 in 2025. When can we apply for the over 65 exemption?

A. Only one of you needs to be over 65 to qualify for the over 65 homestead exemption. Therefore, you and your wife will be able to file the required form in the county where you live once your wife turns 65 in 2024.

Once the exemption is granted, if your spouse dies before you reach age 65, the exemption will remain in effect. The rule is that as long as you are 55 or over if your wife dies and you own the house, you can continue the exemption.

Q I need to add two names to the list of beneficiaries in my will which was prepared by a lawyer. Can I just write them down and have the additions notarized, or do I need to consult a lawyer?

A. You need to go to a lawyer.

Any handwritten changes you make will be ignored during the will verification. You must hire a lawyer to prepare either a new will or an amendment to your existing will (called a “codicil”).

Q In a recent column, you recommended using a Texas-based trust company, but online searches for “Texas-based trust company” don’t return many results. Can you recommend the best research or formulation sites that might be more productive?

A. Most major national banks have trust companies that can perform all the functions required of an executor. You can also search for “trust company Texas” with the name of the county where you live added to the search.

Q My house is paid for and could probably sell for around $500,000. Maintenance and property taxes continue to increase each year. I’m retired with an IRA and a certificate of deposit. Social security is my only income. Should I sell my house and invest in an annuity? Should I buy another house (smaller and cheaper) or rent a house?

A. This question should be directed to a financial planner, not a lawyer.

Try to find a planner who is a “Certified Financial Planner” (or “CFP”) and who is not just interested in selling you an annuity. You want to find an advisor who will tell you what’s best for you, not what’s best for him.

A financial planner will be able to provide projections that will help you determine the best course of action.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Ronald Lipman of the law firm of Houston Lipman & Associates is certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to

[email protected]

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Penny D. Jackson