No one wants to think about what will happen to their belongings after they’re gone. Still, you risk leaving these crucial decisions to the courts without the right will and proper estate planning.
No matter your family situation or the size or value of your estate, having a will is crucial to ensure your last wishes are upheld, and your family is cared for in the event of your death. The M Firm discusses the types of wills available for your estate planning and explains the circumstances that will help you choose the right one for your family and their future.
What is a Will?
A will is a type of legal document specifying how a person wants their property handled and distributed after death. In Texas, wills may be formal or holographic. In either case, there are specific legal requirements the will must meet to be valid.
Legal Requirements for Wills in Texas
For a will to be legally valid and recognized by the state, it must meet these minimum guidelines:
- It must be a written document,
- The person must be of sound mind,
- The person must intend to dispose of all or some of their property with the document,
- The person must be 18 or older (or married or a member of the U.S. Armed Forces),
- The will must have the proper signatures
Some wills need additional proof or testimony to be admitted into probate or considered valid. Wills that don’t need further evidence are known as “self-proving” wills or “self-proved” wills. Still, these self-proving wills can be challenged or nullified during the probate process.
Types of Wills in Texas
In Texas, wills can be either holographic, meaning they are written entirely in the deceased’s own handwriting, or attested, meaning typed or prepared by someone else and signed by the deceased and witnesses.
Unfortunately, holographic wills are sometimes more easily challenged in court, meaning a disgruntled heir may decide to contest the will and drag out the process for your loved ones. For example, someone may claim that the will is not written in your handwriting, meaning the court will have to determine whether that’s true or not.
Here are some of the other most common types of wills in Texas.
- Do-it-Yourself Wills: A do-it-yourself will is typically typed or completed on a ready-made form. These are also sometimes called basic or statutory wills. A do-it-yourself will contains basic information such as a named executor, beneficiary designations, and how you’d like your assets and debts handled after your death. A do-it-yourself will must be signed by the testator (person making the will) and witnessed by two individuals who are not receiving. It may also be made self-proved at the time of signing, or later.
- Reciprocal Wills: These are intended for spouses who wish to leave their assets to each other and have the same wishes for distribution after the surviving spouse is gone.
- Joint Wills: Another option for spouses or people who want to share a single will; this is a binding document shared and signed by all parties. The will is filed with the Court for probate at the first death. These are suitable only in very limited circumstances.
- Wills with Testamentary Trusts: This type of will creates a trust upon death that will determine the handling and distribution of assets over time. They can be particularly useful for controlling distributions to minors.
- Pour-Over Wills: This is a legal document normally used along with a revocable living trust. This type of will “pours over” any assets that were not transferred into the trust during the individual’s lifetime into the trust upon their death. The primary purpose of a pour-over will is to ensure that all the individual’s assets are handled and distributed according to the terms of their living trust.
- Contractual Wills: A contractual will is a binding commitment between two individuals to distribute their assets in an agreed-upon manner. These are used in situations involving multiple parties, such as caretakers, or when spouses or life partners want to ensure the surviving spouse doesn’t change the will after their death.
- Living Wills: A living will is not really a will like those we’ve discussed here. In Texas it is known as a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates. It is also referred to as an advanced directive or medical directive, and it specifies your wishes in case you are unable to make your own healthcare-related decisions.
Choosing the Right Will for Your Estate Planning
As many different types of wills are recognized by the courts in Texas, choosing the right one for your situation is critical for securing your legacy.
Consider the complexity of your assets, family dynamics, and personal preferences. For those seeking simplicity, a basic or simple will may be sufficient. On the other hand, for blended families or those with substantial estates, you may need a more comprehensive instrument, such as a pour-over will or will with a testamentary trust.
It’s crucial to consider the specifics of each option, weighing the benefits and implications. Whether you opt for a formal will, holographic will, or implementing a living will for healthcare directives, making these decisions now will ensure your wishes are carried out and lessen the potential for legal complications or family conflict after you pass.
Consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure you choose the right type of will and other legal instruments for your situation. Personalized guidance is always the best way to ensure you cover all the potential challenges with a proactive approach to protect your estate and heirs.
Secure Your Future Legacy with the Right Will and Comprehensive Estate Plan
Having a will is the single most important component of estate planning. Remember, a will isn’t just a legal document; it’s a profound investment in the legacy you leave behind. For families in Colleyville, TX, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you don’t have to make these crucial decisions alone.
Whether you opt for the clarity of a simple will, the intricacy of a pour-over will, or the shared testament of a joint will, the decision resonates far beyond legal formalities. It speaks to the heart of your aspirations, the nuances of your family dynamics, and the vision you hold for the future.
Attorney Marla Mundheim and the team at The M Firm stand ready to provide you with the expertise and guidance needed to sculpt a legacy that endures the test of time.
Let us help shape the future security of your family and your legacy , while also preserving the assets you have gathered through a lifetime of work and planning. Contact The M Firm today to get started.