Many people have heard of Aretha Franklin and Prince. They left lasting musical legacies for us all to enjoy. What most do not know is they did not have a will. Millions of dollars in estate assets and funds have been tied up in valuation instead of being distributed due to this issue.
Now, most of us are not famous, so why does this matter? In Texas, if a person passes away without a valid will, they do so intestate (no will) and without desired direction for distribution of their estate assets. A court will open probate then appoint an administrator will be appointed to assess assets, find and notify heirs, pay creditors, handle any claims against the estate and FINALLY distribute any remaining assets (if any) according to Texas law. This process can be inefficient, expensive and very frustrating.
However, if you have a valid will, then the process simplifies and your wishes are respected. Instead of an administrator or judge deciding the fate of your estate, your will appoints someone you trust as the executor and allows them to distribute your assets according to your wishes after settling debts with any creditors.
The real question is, why do people wait so long to get a will or never get one at all? While that answer may baffle many, the reality is that not enough people have a will that should. Wills can be general or very specific regarding asset distributions. You, as the Testator of your own will, can pick anyone you choose to receive any portion or item in your estate. Pour-Over Wills allow you to specify estate assets that “pour-over” into a trust upon your death. Many people create a will in conjunction with medical directives. Parents can even place guardianship directives for their minor children in their will to guide the court in custody decisions. Put simply, a will gives you the opportunity to be specific in your wishes for your estate after your death. Having a will can give you a peace of mind knowing your estate and your family are taken care of should something happen.
There are specific witness and drafting requirements for wills to be valid and this may vary from state to state. Sometimes you may need guidance in estate planning while preparing your will. An attorney should always be consulted when preparing to draft and execute a will. The Texas Estates Code can be found here.
The information is not offered as legal advice upon which anyone may rely. Information in this article is provided for public informational and educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created by the offering or reading of this article. This law firm does not represent you until expressly retained by written agreement. It is recommended that you seek legal and professional counsel for your individual circumstances prior to taking any action with legal implications.