We recommend that people have a will made at an attorney’s office—even if the will leaves property in the exact same proportions that intestate succession defines. There are some good reasons for this:
- Avoid Extra Expenses: A will can save your relatives hundreds or even thousands of dollars if your estate has to be probated in Texas. Wills are legal instruments that can be used to allow the executor of your estate to serve without having to get a bond and without having to be supervised by a court. Estates with a valid will also tend to have a smaller legal bill, especially when you add up the additional state-mandated filing-fees and extra attorney hours and the possible need for an attorney ad litem (these are appointed to search for the unknown heirs of a decedent).
- Prevent Family Arguments: When someone passes away, a will can be a very reassuring instrument. Knowing exactly what the decedent desired can help prevent family disagreements. There are no discussions about, “Well, she would have wanted me to have this” or “he promised that to his children.” Stress runs high after a beloved relative passes, and family relationships can suffer lasting harm after an argument over an estate. When you create a will, you are making sure that your money, family heirlooms, collections, real estate, and property are distributed in the way that you know is best.
- Don’t Make Common Mistakes: Although Texas allows the use of handwritten (AKA holographic) wills, these instruments are subject to some very particular requirements and proofs if they are to be admitted as a valid will. People can also purchase wills or even trust instruments online, but these are also subject to specific rules. It is very easy to miss a step when you don’t have experienced advice-- not to mention that there can be drafting clarity issues that can result in an outcome the decedent did not anticipate and would not have wanted. An attempt to save a little cash by avoiding an attorney’s office can mean that your heirs and beneficiaries might have to spend more money to fix past mistakes—if the mistakes can even be corrected.
This blog post only applies to the laws of Texas. The post may or may not match your individual situation. Be careful not to treat it as specific legal advice, as it may not meet your individual needs. It may give you a solid basis for discussion with your own attorney. You should consult with your personal attorney before you take any action on this or any legal issue. Also, please be aware that laws change, so this column is valid only as of the date it was published. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.