“Why do I need a will?” That is a question I often hear from people I meet when they find out I’m an attorney. Most people don’t have a will, in fact 70% of American adults don’t have a will. So if you haven’t thought about it, or just haven’t gotten around to it, you’re in the majority. This article will explain why a will is important, why you should make sure that you have one in place, and what steps you should take to put together your plan.
Did you know that if you don’t have a will the state of Texas has one for you? There is a law of “intestate succession” in the state of Texas, a big term that simply means if you don’t have a will, a Texas statute will determine how to distribute your assets, and it may not be what you intended. A will disposes of your assets and it lets you plan and take care of your family as you see fit. This can be extremely important in situations involving blended families, step children, etc. Let’s say for example you are in your second marriage, you have two children from your first marriage, and your current husband has two children from his first marriage. You care for your stepchildren as your own and you want to make sure that they included in the disposition of your assets if you pass away. If you die without a valid will stating this intention, and your estate passes under the laws of intestate succession, your stepchildren will not receive any of your estate. If you have a duly executed will, you could state that you wish your stepchildren to be included in the distribution of your assets. This is just one example of the many situations that may arise in the modern family.
“I don’t really own anything, so why do I need a will?” This is another common statement I hear. Think about, do you really not own anything? Most people don’t think of their small estate as important, but it is. Do you have a house? A car? A bank account? These are all assets that may be included in your estate.
Do you have minor children? If you do, a will is a must. You will want to ensure that they have a guardian of your choosing ready and available if need be. You’ll also want to make sure that any assets you leave behind are used for their benefit.
“I know I need a will, what do I do now?” First, you should put together your “estate planning” team. Find an estate planning attorney that you are comfortable with and feel you can talk to, as he or she will be a key member of your team. Your attorney will probably also suggest that you speak with a financial advisor, insurance agent, or accountant. Second, you will want to gather your personal and financial information. Your attorney will need to know key information about you and your beneficiaries, your assets, your choice of guardian for minor children, who you want to be the executor and trustee of your estate, how you want your assets distributed, and if you would like to make any charitable bequests. Third, meet with your attorney, go over your information and decide on the best course of action for you. An attorney should be able to list your options, the pros and cons, and which option would work best for you. Fourth, do it! Many people get through steps one through three, but never quite get around to actually doing it. Put the plan in action! You’ll feel much better knowing your family and assets will be taken care of. Finally, you should review your estate plan periodically. Things change, children and grandchildren are born, marriage and divorce happen, people come and go in our lives. Review your estate plan on a regular basis to make sure that your plan is working for you.
Warren Law, P.C.
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