Do I Need a Will?
Back to the age-old question, “Do I need a will”? Readers can check the post “Last Will and Testament” to review the basic components of a will, and the post “What if I Die Without a Will” to review the laws of descent and distribution in Texas.
In Texas, almost every adult should have a will. A major reason to have a will is to avoid higher administration costs of the estate. Texans are fortunate because the State of Texas allows independent administration of an estate. Independent administration means that an executor only has to go to court to prove-up the will, qualify as executor, and file an inventory and appraisement. Everything else is done outside the court’s purview. In other words, a properly drafted will can greatly reduce the cost of administration of an estate.
A person also needs a will to dispose of estate property as desired. As you can see on the post, What if I Die Without a Will, the state’s default descent and distribution laws may not distribute your property the way you would want. For instance, if a person purchased property prior to getting married, the spouse may not end up with that property after the person dies. Similarly, siblings, nieces or nephews may receive property that the testator wouldn’t dream of leaving to them.
Another issue is minor children. Testator’s with minor children can detail in a will how minor childrens’ shares should be treated, such as minor trusts, guardians, etc. If a person dies intestate (without a will), the court gets to decide who should control the minor’s portion of the estate. And, it may not be who the testator would have named.
The size of an estate is not a good excuse to avoid signing a will because the size of an estate can change. After executing a will, it will remain in effect for the life of the testator unless it is revoked or amended. It is hard to predict ten, twenty, thirty, or even forty years into the future. For instance, a person may own property that could greatly appreciate in value, win the lottery, or receive some other windfall. Also, career earnings could increase along with investments. Even if a testator executes a will when her estate is small, the will would still distribute the estate in the manner the decedent requested.
Similarly, a will can speak to certain tax considerations that may not be important today, but could be important in ten or twenty years. The relevance could arise due to a change in the size of an estate or the change in tax laws, which seem to be changing annually. Such tax considerations could include a marital deduction or a similar tax consideration.
As always, you should seek an attorney licensed to practice law in your state for assistance with all your estate planning needs because each person and each family have different factual situations.