One of the most common legal questions asked of me is, “Do I need a Will?” It’s a very simple question, and my very simple reply is, “I don’t know, do you?” Sounds painfully vague, doesn’t it? Well, it really depends on what type of person you are.
I’ve devised a simple test to see if you would benefit from writing a Will. Choose which one suits you the best:
- A) I trust the government to know what’s best for my property after I pass away and I trust that they will distribute my property to my family members equally and fairly; or
- B) I’ve worked hard to earn everything I own and I want certain friends and family members to receive specific items with sentimental value after I pass away so there is no bickering among them.
Do I Need a Will? – Your Results
If you chose A) then congratulations! You’ve just saved a few minutes that you would have wasted thinking about writing a Will and you can stop reading now.
In Texas, the law defines passing away without a valid Will in place “Intestacy.” If you chose this option, you might benefit from a quick review of the laws regarding Texas Intestate Succession to ensure the government’s decision for your property matches your own. You might find that it does not.
—See Descent and Distribution—Tex. Est. Code Ch. 201
If you chose B), then I regret to inform you that you are going to have to set aside a few minutes of your day thinking about your Will.
You might be confused with my measurement of Will writing in mere minutes. Don’t worry because it isn’t a typo. A Will doesn’t have to be a difficult thing to write. I’m certain that you could write a legally effective Will for yourself without having to ever step inside of a lawyer’s office. However, I wouldn’t advise it.
A Will written wholly in your handwriting is called a Holographic Will in Texas. However, you must take precautions in executing a Holographic Will to ensure it is valid. I wouldn’t advise going at it alone.
—See Fundamental Requirements and Provisions Relating to Wills—Tex. Est. Code Ch. 251
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to stop reading in the next 5 words and get started with writing a Will. Trust me, I know how you feel because I’m hard-headed and I like to figure things out on my own.
Recipe for a Will
Unfortunately, writing a Will isn’t like cooking stew where you can add ingredients and spices in between tastes until it is just right. Writing a Will is more like baking a cake where you put ingredients in a pan, pop it in the oven, and then 30 minutes later you get to see if you did everything right. Just like the cake, you only get one chance with the Will and if you forget one of the elements then it reverts back to as if there never had been a Will.
Remember from above, no Will means Intestate Succession, which means the government decides what happens to your property. The problem with an invalid Will may never affect you, but it will absolutely affect your family and friends who are left trying to piece together what you wanted. Again, if you chose B), and you are absolutely set on writing your own Holographic Will, at least do your friends and family a favor. Take it to an attorney for her opinion on whether or not it is valid according to Texas law.
Plan of Action
Therefore, I recommend speaking with an attorney about writing a “Simple Will.” A Simple Will isn’t expensive. In fact, a Simple Will doesn’t take much of your time or effort. Your attorney should be able to explain the necessary parts to a Simple Will. Your attorney can also describe the steps that you need to take to execute a Simple Will that will stand firm after you’ve passed on.
So pop a cake in the oven, spend that waiting time making a list of your most prized possessions along with who should receive it. While that cake is cooling, call your Estate Planning Attorney to arrange a consultation.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Estate Management Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3303
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479