What exactly is a Will?
A will is a legal document that only takes effect after your death and will allow you to leave your property to certain individuals or organizations. A will can be customized to fit your specific needs, such as allowing you to choose who you want to leave your property to, who you want to distribute your property, who you want to take care of your minor children, etc.
What happens if I die without a will or an estate plan?
In Texas, the government will distribute your estate according to the Texas Probate Code, which is a set of laws that dictate how a person’s estate will be distributed if they die intestate (without a will).
You will have absolutely no control over the process. This means that your property may go to someone that you do not like or have never met.
What can or should be addressed in a Will?
Most wills should address, at the bare minimum, who you want to receive your property.
It is important to note that a will can be tailored to fit your individual needs. No two people are exactly alike. This means that a person without children will not need to worry about designating legal guardians for his/her children, but a person with children may want to designate someone that they trust to take care of their children upon their passing. There are various options, so it is best to speak with an attorney to make sure that your exact intentions are expressed.
Is there anything that can’t be included in a Will?
Yes. There are a few items that cannot be left in a will, some include:
(1) You cannot give away property that you do not own. For example, if you have a mortgage loan, your home still belongs to your lender. This means that if you pass away before the loan is paid, your home does not belong to you. This means that anyone that you leave home to will be responsible for the remainder of the loan.
(2) You cannot put certain conditions on your gifts/property (i.e. marriage, divorce, illegal activities, change of religion, etc.) For example, you cannot ask/demand a potential beneficiary to file for a divorce before s/he can receive the gift.
(3) You cannot make any wishes. You have to make definite gifts or bequests. This means that you should not give someone property (i.e. family heirloom), and expect them to give it to someone else later on.
(4) You cannot leave your property to your pet, since animals do not have the legal capacity to accept property. For this reason, you may want leave your property to a person or organization that you trust to take care of your pet.
Does a Will address having a customized plan should someone become incapacitated?
There are two types of wills.
First, there are simple wills, which simply takes effect when a person is deceased. Second, there are living wills, which take effect when a person is deceased and when a person is incapacitated (unable to make decisions due to physical or mental reasons). Living wills are beneficial to have, because it will allow a person to choose who they want to take care of their person/body and/or who they want to take care of their finances in the event that they become incapacitated.
Wills can also address other medical issues, such as who you want to view your medical records, who you want to make medical decisions for you while you are incapacitated, and whether or not you want to be kept alive in a terminal or irreversible condition.
For more information on Wills in Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (281) 777-1236 today. We have two convenient locations in north and south Houston, Texas.
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