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A Will is a document that describes how you want your assets to be divided when you pass. It also defines how you want your debts to be handled and you can identify who you want to play a significant role in the handling of your affairs after you are gone.
While a Will is the most important part of an estate plan, you may also want to consider a physician’s directive (a living will), a power of attorney, a medical power of attorney and the inclusion of beneficiary designations on certain non-probate assets, together, these documents can create a comprehensive estate plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I die without a Will?
The Texas Probate Code provides for the distribution of your assets if you pass without a Will. Your assets will be divided between your spouse and children. If you do not have a spouse or surviving children, then the estate will pass to your parents, brothers and sisters, etc.
Can I pick who will probate my estate?
Yes, one of the roles that you can define in your will is the person who will be responsible for gathering your assets, paying your debts and distributing the remainder of your assets to the people you name in your Will.
Where should I keep my original Will?
You should keep your Will in a place that is secure from fire and flood such as a safe deposit box or a strong box at home. Wherever you decide to keep your Will, you should let your family know where the original document is stored. If you keep the document in your safe-deposit box, be sure that your family has access to the box.
Should I have a Will?
Yes, in addition to providing for the distribution of your assets, a Will allows you to identify the person who you want to probate your estate, you can identify a trustee who will be responsible for the gifts of an heir who is to young to manage their own money and you can identify the person who you would like to serve as guardian of your minor children.
Is there a deadline to probate a Will?
Yes, a Will needs to be probated within 4 years after the deceased has passed away. If a Will is not probated within 4 years, the law treats the deceased as if they died without a Will and their assets will be distributed in accordance with the Texas Probate Code. Note that a Will may be offered as a muniment of title after the 4 year deadline; however, this proceeding does not offer the same benefits of a full probate.
Is a handwritten Will legal?
A handwritten Will may be valid if it is written completely in the handwriting of the deceased. Also, the document must be signed by the deceased.
Who is responsible for the debts of someone that has died?
Creditors that exist when someone dies can only assert their interest against the assets owned by the deceased at the time of his or her death. Family members are not liable for the debts of the Decedent. If the estate is not large enough to cover the outstanding debts, the unpaid debts are cancelled by the creditor.
Simple Will – A simple Will is a document that consists of the basic provisions relating to the distribution of your estate once you pass. This document allows for you to identify the names of people who will fulfill certain obligations once you die. A simple Will does not provide for estate tax concerns; however, estate tax concerns do not exist unless an extremely large estate is involved.
Powers of Attorney - These documents are created for medical and general interest. A power of attorney allows someone else to make important decisions for you if you become unable to do so due to mental or physical limitations.
Physician’s Directive (Living Will) – This document informs your health care professionals about how you feel about life sustaining measures in the event that you are unable to discuss these issues with your doctor.
Executor/Administrator – The Executor that is named in a Will, or an Administrator in a probate proceeding without a Will, have the same basic obligations: 1) they must identify and collect the assets of the deceased’s estate, 2) they must pay the debts that the deceased owed at the time of his or her death, and 3) they distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the Will or the law.
Probate – Generally, this is the legal process by which the estate of a deceased is administered which includes the collection of assets, the payment of debts and the distribution of the remaining assets.