Nearly everyone is aware of the importance of a will, but many people do not understand critical truths about wills such as the following:
Administration of an estate without a will (“intestate”) is likely to be costly, prolonged, and untrue to the wishes of the decedent. This situation should be avoided if at all possible. During one’s lifetime, this means not putting off estate planning until it is too late. After someone dies, avoiding an intestate situation may mean the family will need to do an extensive search for a valid will among personal belongings before moving forward toward wrapping up the estate.
A will must be signed correctly to be valid. An experienced estate planning lawyer can ensure that a will is going to be acceptable. If your most recent will is from another state, you should have a Texas lawyer review it to determine whether you should replace it.
A will fit to take through probate must be original. A copy of a will is not acceptable to a probate court. The law assumes that if the original cannot be produced the will maker must have decided he no longer wanted the will and destroyed it. If the original will is not found in a timely manner, expensive court procedures often will be necessary to close the estate.
There may be children or others who might contest the will. Should you take steps to reduce the likelihood of a contest?
The Texas Anti-Lapse statute can affect gifts. For example, this law means that if you make a gift to your brother and he dies before you, the gift will not lapse. It will instead go to his children – which may or may not be what you want.
As a result of Houston’s Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, many wills were lost in floods – including some that were in flooded downtown banks’ safe deposit boxes. If you are unsure whether your will or your close family member’s will is still available or in useable condition, it is time to create a replacement. Even if your most recent will has not been destroyed or lost, you may need to update or replace it if:
The original will is illegible for any reason.
Family circumstances have changed.
You have moved from another state to Texas.
Your most recent will is old enough that its validity might be in question.
A simple or complex will is a core feature of almost any estate plan. Whether you are of modest means, of comfortable means or part of a high net worth family, a will and applicable trusts may help your family reduce estate taxes and other financial burdens that can come with a death in the family. A will can also specify instructions for burial and name guardians of minor children.
James H. Hard, Jr., Attorney at Law, is a valuable resource for individuals and couples seeking reliable estate planning services. Call or email the law offices to schedule a consultation with lawyer James H. Hard, Jr. about your will or a loved one’s will. Talk to your estate planning attorney about where you should keep your will once you have created or updated it.