One of the most important things you can do for your family is to prepare a Last Will and Testament, also referred to as a Will. A Will is a legal document that allows you to decide what will happen to your property after you are gone. This blog discusses several reasons why you need a will.
You get to decide how your estate will be distributed. If you die without a Will (also known as “intestate”), then your property will be distributed according to the Texas Estates Code, and in that event, your property may be distributed in a way that you would never have intended. If you have children from a different marriage, for example, they may not receive the inheritance you intended to pass on to them.
You can save your beneficiaries from a lengthy and expensive probate case. Having a valid Will does not mean that you do not have to go through probate. All estates must be probated, with or without a valid Will. However, having a valid Will in place simplifies and shortens the process, and it makes the probate process less expensive for your heirs.
You can specifically disinherit individuals who would otherwise be entitled to inherit from your estate. You may not want certain individuals to inherit from your estate. For example, your nephew who is addicted to drugs may be entitled to inherit some or all of your property, contrary to your wishes. With a valid Will you have the ability to specify exactly who shall inherit, and who shall not inherit from your estate.
You can specify funeral arrangements in your Will.
You may or may not want to address funeral arrangements in your will, but you certainly have the ability to do so. You can, for instance, state that you want to be cremated and have your ashes spread in a particular location. Leaving specific instructions will likely prevent future arguments between family members as they struggle with these decisions.
If you have minor children you can specify who will take care of them should you die. Also, you can specify who will manage the children’s estate. This doesn’t have to be the same person. One person may be designated to take physical care of the children, and another person may be designated to manage the children’s funds until they are of a certain age. You also have the ability, through a valid Will, to decide at what age and under what circumstances the children will inherit.
With a valid Will, you can actually give very specific instructions regarding when and how certain individuals will receive their share of your estate. For instance, you can specify that children do not inherit until they have graduated from college, or until they have reached the age of 30 years, or until they have married. In a sense, having a valid Will gives you control over issues even after your death. If you die intestate, there are no such automatic provisions in place.
To be legally valid in Texas, a Will must meet the requirements of the Texas Probate Code.
When executing the document, the testator must be of sound mind for this purpose, and he/she must not be acting under any type of duress. Further, the testator must sign the document in the presence of 2 witnesses who are at least 14 years old and who are not beneficiaries to the Will. Especially in the event of a Will contest it is imperative that all requirements have been met and procedures have been properly followed during the execution of the Will.
In preparing a legally valid Will, there are several factors you must consider. First, you need to talk to a professional. Second, you need to clarify nature and the extent of property involved. Next, determine who the natural heirs are. Also, if you are leaving money to your minor children, your minor grandchildren, or any individual under the age of 21, you must decide who to appoint as guardian of the children’s estate.
The exceptional reputation of Justice Law Firm, PC, is known throughout Tarrant and Dallas Counties.
Tracey Justice’s team focuses its practice on the areas of probate law, family law, and collaborative divorce, providing the highest quality in legal services. More information about wills and probate is available here on our website or contact us.