Writing a will may be something you don’t think about unless you have a brush with death. You may think you will deal with your will later, when you are closer to the end of your life and the thought of death won’t feel so morbid. If these are your thoughts, you may not really understand what a will is and how important it can be at any stage of life.
At its minimum, a will expresses your wishes for how you want to distribute your belongings after you die. However, your wishes may not be as obvious to your children and others as it is to your mind. Without giving written instructions, you may leave behind a state of confusion that you never intended or desired for your loved ones.
What should my will include?
Even if you have few assets, a well-prepared will can provide your family with guidance and important information to facilitate a smoother and less stressful probate process. Your will can provide invaluable information to your loved ones including:
- Who receives your assets, including real property, cherished possessions and the contents of financial accounts
- Who should not receive any of your assets, such as an estranged child or a family member who you feel betrayed you in some way
- Whether you wish some of your assets to go to a special charity or cause to which you felt connected
- How to distribute any benefits from accounts, such as life insurance policies, when the designated beneficiaries have already died
- Your choice of guardian for any minor children who are still living when you die
In almost every case, a formally prepared will is the most effective option. In very few circumstances will a Texas court accept an oral, or nuncupative, will, which is one that you might speak to those standing around your bed at the end of your life. However, a will that is holographic, or hand written, may have a better chance. Texas recognizes holographic wills, but they must comply with state laws, including having a certain number of witnesses.
Texas law does not require you to use the services of an attorney to create a valid will. However, you should know that if your final product does not comply with state laws or provides confusing or vague instructions, you may open the door to lifelong disputes among family members or, at the very least, expensive probate litigation to clear up any misunderstandings. An experienced attorney can assist you in creating a clear and complete will that will meet your unique estate planning goals.