What is a Will? A Guide to a Last Will and Testament

Are you unsure or have questions about a Last Will & Testament? If so, Dooley Noted has your questions answered and your future covered.
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Staff Writer, @DooleyNotedLaw

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A Last Will & Testament is one of the most important documents you can have in place. And yet individuals put off the process far too long. Many people believe that they don’t have enough assets or net worth to warrant a Will. But that could not be further from the truth. Regardless of your age, net worth, or life stage, having a Last Will & Testament remains a top priority.

What is a Last Will & Testament?

A Last Will & Testament, (or simply, a Will)  is a legally binding document that states how you want all your possessions and assets distributed upon death. In other words, this includes everything from your home and personal belongings to investments and life insurance policies. Furthermore, a Will is only a small part of an estate plan, but it’s essential. Additionally, you can use a Will to appoint a guardian for your minor children. Without a Will, the court will decide who will care for your children if something happens to you.

It’s important to note that a Will only controls property in your name at the time of your death. In other words, property jointly owned with another person is not controlled by your Will.

A Will is an essential document that gives you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are secure upon your passing.

Why Do I Need a Last Will & Testament?

As an adult (18 or older), you need a Will. Otherwise, if you don’t have a Will in place, the court will decide how to distribute your belongings and assets according to the laws of intestate succession.

Intestate succession means that the state decides how to distribute your belongings and assets if you die without a Will. In most cases, your spouse or children will inherit your property, but this isn’t always what happens. For example, if you have no living relatives, your property may go to the state (scary).

Types of Wills

Simple Wills 

A Simple Will is a document written by an individual and signed in front of two witnesses. Furthermore, it generally contains a statement naming the person who will serve as executor of your estate. It lists assets you want to leave to specific individuals and a clause stating that you revoke any prior wills.

A “Simple” Will can sound misleading because you can accomplish a lot with this type of Will. For example, you can use a Simple Will to name a guardian for your children, create trusts for the benefit of your loved ones, make charitable gifts, and appoint someone to manage your property.

Testamentary Trust Wills

Testamentary Trust, also known as “Trust Under Will” or a “Will Trust,” is written inside a Will. The Testamentary Trust is established when you pass away. The trustee distributes the assets per your wishes as set out in the Will. Moreover, individuals can use this Will to provide for young children, disabled persons, or anyone else who may need help managing their finances.

Joint Wills

A Joint Will is a will created by two people, usually spouses, that have identical provisions. For example, if you have children, a Joint Will can ensure that they are taken care of if something happens to both parents. Additionally, both people must sign the document, and it becomes effective only upon the death of both individuals. You can make changes to the Joint Will at any time, as long as both of you are alive. In other words, if one of you passes away, the other cannot make changes to the Will.

Online Wills

An Online Will allows you to create a Will without going through the hassle of meeting with an estate planning lawyer in person. You can complete the entire process from your computer or smartphone in just a few minutes.

However, you need to be careful if you decide to create a Will online. Not all of them are created equal. Therefore, make sure the company you choose is reputable and legal. Ultimately, just as you would select a trustworthy estate planning lawyer, you want to make sure the online will service you use is reliable.

Deathbed Wills

A Deathbed Will is created when you are near death. This type of Will is not advisable for several reasons. First, you are not of sound mind when you are on your deathbed. You may be delirious, in pain, or otherwise not thinking clearly. Second, it is easy for someone to take advantage of you when you are not fully present or 100% yourself.

Additionally, Deathbed Wills are not always correctly executed. Certain assets may be left out of your Will altogether, which can create problems down the road. Ultimately, it is best to avoid making a Will on your deathbed and instead consult with an estate planning lawyer in Texas.

Holographic Wills

A person making the Will (the testator) handwrites a Holographic Will. In other words, Holographic Wills are not typed or computer-generated. A Holographic Will is generally valid in Texas as long as it meets specific requirements. However, the most crucial need is that the Will must be completely handwritten by the testator. 

Nuncupative Wills

A Nuncupative Will is spoken. In other words, you can’t write out a Nuncupative Will. Additionally, it must meet specific requirements to be valid in Texas. However, the most critical need is that the testator must speak the Will while they are still alive and of sound mind. 

The requirements of a Nuncupative Will vary from state to state. Generally, a Nuncupative Will is only valid with fewer than three witnesses.

Will vs. Trust

The minute you create a Trust, it’s immediately set in place. In contrast, a Will is only active when you pass away. A Trust is an arrangement where you give the trustee the right to handle your assets for a particular purpose. A Will is a legal document that directs the distribution of your assets after passing away.

 

One key difference between a Will and a Trust is that Trusts do not require probate. Probate is the legal process of verifying a Will and distributing the deceased person’s assets according to its terms. Furthermore, another difference is that a Trust is private and a Will is public.

 

What will happen if I don’t have a Last Will & Testament?

Your estate will go through the intestate succession process if you die without a Will. As noted above, intestate succession is a legal process that determines who gets your property if you don’t have a Will. The laws of intestate succession vary from state to state. Still, generally, your spouse, children, parents, or siblings will receive your assets. However, you will have no say in who gets specific assets or takes care of your minor children if something happens to you.

If you don’t have a Will before you pass away, you won’t be able to decide who will inherit your property. Ultimately, this can cause a lot of problems for your loved ones. They may have to go through the probate process to receive your assets.

 

Why hire an Estate Planning Lawyer in Texas

Estate planning lawyers can help you create a Will that reflects your wishes and ensures that your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone. Additionally, they help you plan for other incidents, such as incapacity or long-term care. An estate planning lawyer can answer any questions you have about the process and help you consider all necessary factors.

Please don’t wait until it’s too late to create a Will. Contact Dooley Noted today to get started on creating your Last Will & Testament. We’ll work with you to ensure that all your bases are covered so that you can rest assured that your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes. 

The contents of this post, and the posting and viewing of the information on this post, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.

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