1. Do I Even Need a Will?
When a person dies without a will, his property is divided according to Texas intestacy laws. While these laws are designed to “fill in the gaps,” your property may be distributed in unexpected and undesired ways. For instance, most people assume that their spouse will receive everything; however, in Texas this is not the case.
A will provides certainty that your property will be distributed according to your specific instructions, allowing you to rest easy knowing that your loved ones will be provided for.
2. What are the benefits of having a will?
1. Peace of mind that your property will be distributed according to your specific instructions.
2. Guidance to your loved ones during a difficult time. Your will is the last gift you can give to your loved ones. A well written will minimizes the stress, costs and grief your loved ones will face when managing your final affairs.
3. Savings. Having a properly executed, expertly drafted will saves money. On average, a person who dies without a will in Texas can expect to pay over $800 in court fees. However, probating an uncontested will costs approximately $350 in court fees. These numbers don’t even begin to calculate total costs for attorneys’ fees: dying without a will costs more in attorney fees because intestate proceedings usually require more work and time on the attorney’s part.
3. Can I write my own Will?
Texas honors handwritten (“holographic”) wills. A holographic will must be completely in the testator’s handwriting and signed by the testator. If you write your own will, and it’s not self-proved, your loved ones will have to take extra steps in court to probate your will. This results in more time and money. Also, handwritten wills are more prone to challenges of capacity and testamentary intent. The best option is to have a licensed attorney draft your will. This way, you can be sure that all the legal requirements have been met and the right provisions included to ensure probating your will is as easy and inexpensive as possible.
4. Can’t I just use LegalZoom and avoid paying attorney fees?
Yes, you can. But then you’d be trusting a ten minute, fill-in-the-blank form to protect what you’ve spent a lifetime creating. LegalZoom and other prepaid legal forms use boilerplate language for a “one size fits all” approach. An experienced estate planning attorney will learn about your family and advise you for your particular situation.
Another problem is that software programs cannot guarantee that you have properly executed and witnessed your will. In Texas, a will not properly executed is invalid and will not be honored by the courts. Instead, your property will pass by intestate distribution.
5. I don’t have much property. Do I need a will?
Yes. Wills are not just for the wealthy. If you leave probate assets, the probate court will be involved. A will minimizes the costs and time associated with managing your final affairs.
In addition, a will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children.