When it comes to planning your estate, a will is one of the most important documents you can create. But what exactly is a will? And what do you need to create one?
As an estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Mario Flores, I help individuals create valid and legally-binding wills in Austin, Texas, and surrounding areas, including Georgetown, Round Rock, and San Marcos. If you're ready to start designing an estate plan, reach out to my office to get started.
Also known as a last will and testament, a will is essentially a written document that states who inherits your assets when you die. The document also dictates how those assets are managed in certain cases. Wills can also include guardianship for minor children and the appointment of the executor to manage the distribution of your assets. It's important to note that wills must be created while the testator (the person creating the will) is still alive and of sound mind. Otherwise, they are not legally binding.
It's important to understand that a will is not the same as a trust. A trust is another type of estate planning tool that can work alongside your will. With trusts, you can establish guidelines that dictate how your assets should be managed while you're still alive-not just after death. This includes establishing parameters around when beneficiaries receive their inheritance. A trust offers more flexibility than a will since it can remain active even after you're gone.
Typical items included in a will include instructions on who gets what property, who takes care of any minor children (known as "guardians"), who manages any financial matters related to the estate (known as an "executor" or "personal representative"), how debts are paid off from the estate, specifying funeral arrangements, etc. Depending on the type of will you create, there may be additional items included in your document, which is why you might want to consult with a wills attorney in Austin, Texas, to learn more about what should be included in your will.
There are many reasons why having a will is important. The following covers a few key examples.
Having a legally valid will can significantly reduce the time, money, and stress associated with settling your estate. Without one, your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes. This could lead to more paperwork for those administering your estate and costly legal fees for them to sort out any disputes among family members. A valid will ensures that this does not happen as it clearly states what you want to be done with all of your assets upon your passing.
Having a will allows you to decide who gets which asset or property in the event of your death. If you do not have a will, then the state intestate succession law decides who inherits what from you-which may not be in line with what you want or expect. Having a valid will helps ensure that the people closest to you get what they need most.
Family disputes can arise in the absence of clear instructions regarding how an estate should be divided up upon someone's passing. A well-written will eliminates any ambiguity by leaving no room for interpretation or speculation as far as who gets what from an estate goes. This can save families from significant strife and division during an already difficult time in their lives.
As morbid as it might sound, funerals are something we all have to consider when planning ahead for our own deaths-and having a valid will makes sure that these arrangements are made according to our wishes if we cannot make them ourselves later on down the road. This way, your family won't have to deal with these tough decisions while they are grieving. Instead, they'll know exactly how you want things handled, so there's one less thing they'll have to worry about at such a difficult time in their lives.
Having minor children comes with added responsibility. If something were to happen to both parents before the children become adults, someone needs to take over guardianship and provide care until the kids turn 18. Having a valid will allows you to designate someone trustworthy who can take over guardianship and make sure your children's basic needs are being taken care of until they reach adulthood.
When creating a will, it must meet certain requirements in order to be valid and legally binding in the state of Texas. These requirements include:
- The document is in writing (handwritten wills - also known as holographic wills - are also valid in Texas as long as they are written entirely in the testator's handwriting and signed by him/her);
- The testator is of sound mind and memory;
- The document is made by the testator voluntarily and freely; and
- The document is signed in the presence of two or more credible witnesses (witnesses must be 14 years of age or older to be credible under Texas law).
If you ever need to make changes to your will, you can do so without having to revoke the document. This can be done through a codicil, which adds changes to your existing will. However, if significant changes are necessary, you will most likely need to revoke the existing will and create a new document. No matter what, it's in your best interest to collaborate with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Having a valid will is essential for making sure that our wishes are respected when it comes time for us to pass away. Without one, things may not go according to your desired plan. With the help of a wills attorney in Austin, Texas, you can create a valid will that accurately reflects your wishes. Reach out to my law firm - The Law Office of Mario Flores, PLLC - to schedule an appointment and discuss your situation.