A will, which is sometimes referred to as a “Last Will and Testament” determines what happens after someone dies. If a will is written and executed clearly and correctly it can make it less likely that someone may contest the will. There are very specific rules that must be followed in order to guarantee that the will is valid. Preparing a will in Texas requires that certain rules are followed in order to be valid. A will can be changed either by making a brand new will or adding a “codicil” but there are reasons why using codicils have become less common.
In Texas, a will can be used for many things including:
- leaving property to individuals organizations and groups,
- selecting a “personal guardian” to be responsible for children,
- choosing an individual to take care of children’s property and
- choosing an executor that will make sure the will is followed.
Dying Without a Will
In Texas, if someone dies without a will the property is distributed according to Texas intestacy laws. Texas’s intestacy law gives property to the closest relatives The first people to inherit are a spouse and children. When a person does not have a spouse or children the grandchildren receive property and if there are no grandchildren then a person’s parents receive the property. This continues with more distant relatives including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and eventually spouse’s relatives. If the court can not find any relatives then the state of Texas gets the property. The legal term is “escheatment” as in, the property “escheats” to the state of Texas.
Requirements for Signing a Will in Texas
To finalize a will in Texas:
- the will must be signed in front of two witnesses, and
- the witnesses must sign the will.
Notarizing a Will in Texas
In Texas an individual does not need to notarize a will to make it legal.
It is a good idea to go to a notary to prepared a “self-proving affidavit”. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses that signed it.
In order to make a will self-proving the testator and their witnesses must sign an affidavit in front of a notary that proves who they are and that each of them knew they were signing the will.
Naming an Executor in a Will
In Texas, an individual can name an executor in the will. An executor is the person who will ensure that the provisions of the will are carried out after death. If a person doesn’t name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In Texas, or anywhere, it is important to follow the laws and rules to make sure that a will is accepted. In addition to following the black and white rules, there are a number of best practices that can and should be followed to ensure that a person’s last wishes are clear. If there is any ambiguity, there can be an expensive will contest and the courts will decide who gets a person’s property.