Ensure Your Wishes Are Carried Out
Dallas, Texas Last Will and Testament Attorneys
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone legal document of most estate plans. In essence, it directs who will receive your money and property when you die as well as names a person to take charge of your estate business (the executor).
Why Do You Need a Will?
There are several reasons why a will should be one of the documents in your estate plan.
- Simplification – A will is typically a simple, direct way of declaring who you want to take your assets upon death, as well as who you want to be in charge (the executor).
- Unsupervised Court Administration – In Texas, if your will does not specifically provide for unsupervised or “independent” administration, your executor may need obtain court approval for most steps in administering your estate (even normal matters such as conveying property to your heirs). In nearly all cases, our clients ask us to nominate their executor on an unsupervised basis (which will save their family time and money).
- Family Security – You can decide to transfer an inheritance outright, or through a trust. Making sure your family is taken care of when you pass is one of the biggest benefits of creating a will.
Have you ever worried about having your wishes carried out after you pass away? Are you concerned about what will happen to your assets when you’re gone? You’re not alone, and fortunately, making a legally binding Last Will and Testament is not as complicated as most people think. Creating a will can spare your loved ones from a lengthy ordeal in state probate courts and protect the fruit of your life’s work.
Who Should I Name as Executor for my Will?
You can name anyone you trust as the executor, provided that they can qualify to serve. In Texas, to serve as a personal representative of an estate, a person has to be above the age of 18, can never have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime involving theft, and can never have been declared as incapacitated by the court. In addition, the executor must not have any conflict of interest against your estate (for example, the executor cannot have legal claims against you or claim the estate owes you money or vice versa). In many cases, clients name their spouse, an adult child, or another trusted friend or relative.
Can I Update My Will?
Yes, and you should anytime you life circumstances change. The decision is ultimately yours. However, the only version of your will that matters is the most current valid one in existence at the time of your death. With that in mind, it’s best practice to revisit your will at times of major life changes. Events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, the death of a beneficiary or executor, or a significant purchase or inheritance are all good times to revisit your will.
Can My Will Be Contested?
Yes, a will can be contested for any number of reasons such as fraud, undue influence, lack of competence, or coercion. If your will is contested, it’s usually up to a probate judge to settle the dispute. If you suspect your will may be contested by someone else, working with an experienced estate planning attorney will usually help avoid situations that could result in a successful contest.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Will?
Technically, no. While there is no absolute legal requirement that says you must hire an attorney for this process, there are many benefits to utilizing an experienced, licensed attorney. With so much at stake – for you and your family – the modest investment required to hire an experienced estate planning attorney can give you peace of mind in knowing your documents are legally sound and prepared correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally speaking, most people should have a will or other estate plan in place at their death to assist their loved ones in transitioning their property. Having a will allows the person making the will (known as the “testator”) the control of naming the person or entity getting their property. A Will also allows the testator to nominate someone to serve as an executor or to expressly dictate someone who cannot serve as the executor.
Generally, Texas law only recognizes two types of wills: (1) an “attested” written will which is typically drafted by lawyer, signed by the testator and witnessed by independent people who attest the proper execution of the will; and, (2) a “holographic” will which is a last will and testament written completely in the testator’s handwriting and which properly disposes of his or her property. Texas law no longer recognizes verbal wills.
While a will can govern the distribution of all or a portion of a person’s assets after death, this is by no means the only function of a will. In Texas, wills are also used to:
- Name a personal representative or executor
- Provide funeral and burial instructions
- Provide the ability for heirs to disclaim their inheritance rights for tax purposes
- Provide the ability for personal representatives and executors to make tax elections