Last Wills & Testaments
If a person dies without a will, the law disposes of his or her property.
The public policy of statutes governing the intestate distribution of property is to provide for the orderly distribution of property at death. The law does not play favorites, so the distribution is determined by how closely the heir was related to the decedent, not by the nature or quality of any relationship between the heir and the decedent.
Dying without a will may trigger undesired results and unexpected costs and delays.
A will is a legal instrument which states how the testator’s property is to be distributed at death. A valid will avoids many of the problems that may arise from dying without a will and allows a person to leave property to the persons he or she desires. In addition to naming the recipients of
the testator’s property, the will also designates the individual(s) who will manage the property and care for minor children. In larger estates, the will often contains provisions that minimize estate taxes.
A will can also set up a trust, a method by which property is held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary). To establish a trust, the testator transfers property, with the specific intent to create a trust, to the trustee who manages and administers the property for the benefit of named beneficiaries. A testamentary trust arises under a will and becomes effective when the testator dies. A trust is an effective way of managing property for the benefit of minor or incapacitated persons or persons who are incapable of managing their own financial affairs.
A trust also is useful to prevent a spendthrift child from immediately spending his or her inheritance by preserving the funds for the child’s education or other important needs. Further, a trust may be used to protect the child’s inheritance from the claims of his or her creditors because property placed in a trust generally may not be reached by a beneficiary’s creditors until it is distributed to the beneficiary. There also are many other legitimate reasons to create a trust in a will.
For a will to accomplish any or all of these results, it must have been properly signed. Texas recognizes handwritten wills (holographic wills) and typewritten wills (formal wills).
To execute a will, the testator must meet the following requirements:
- is at least 18 years of age, is or has been lawfully married, or is serving in the armed forces;
- be of sound mind at the time of execution;
- not be unduly or fraudulently induced (forced or deceived) to make the will; and
- have testamentary intent (present intent to bequeath property at death).
Additional requirements as noted below must be met for each type of will.
We have prepared wills and trusts for hundreds of clients. If you need a will prepared, you should contact our experienced estate planning attorneys.