What is a Written Will?
A will is a written document that, among other things:
- Reflects who you want to receive the things you own – your assets- when you die;
- Names an individual or entity you want to be responsible to see that your intentions are carried out; and
- Contains language and is signed with certain legal formalities to ensure that you understood that what you are signing is your will, as well as containing language to minimize probate costs.
Four Good Reasons to Have a Will
One, you will eliminate the burden on your family that can occur when they don’t know what you want done at your death.
Two, you are ensuring your wishes, not state law, dictate who receives that part of your assets that usually passes by a will.
Three, in all likelihood, there will be fewer financial costs and time delays, both in deciding who receives your assets and in distributing those assets.
Four, your voice will be heard in determining who will care for your minor children and who will control the money needed to care for them.
Do I Need an Attorney to Draft a Will for Me?
The simple answer is no. However, here are some of the benefits of having an attorney assist you.
You ensure all the formalities of law are followed. By that, I mean that the document you intend to be your will is recognized as a will under Texas law and that the will contains language that will reduce court involvement and expense on your death.
The will is less likely to have ambiguous language that can create conflict and litigation.
“What ifs” are addressed. This includes, for example, what happens if someone you name in your will dies before you, or what gifts in the will should be reduced or eliminated if there are less funds available than you anticipated when you made your will.
The big picture is discussed. Not all your assets are distributed by your will. Life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts are examples of assets that often pass separate from your will to others based on the paperwork you may or may not remember filling out when you created those accounts. Texas’ community property laws can have a significant impact as well. An attorney’s job is to explain all these things to you so you can make the best decisions.
It is not just a will an attorney prepares for you. Estate planning involves preparing a will but also other important documents that answer the questions: (1) who speaks for you if you cannot speak for yourself due to illness or disability; and (2) who cares for your children if both parents have died.