The following questions and answers may inspire you to call Rebecca to discuss a plan that is right for you.

What is a will and why do I need one?

The cornerstone to anybody’s estate planning is a written last will and testament. A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your estate handled when you die. In a will you get to name who gets your property (a beneficiary), who will be left in charge (the executor), who is designated to care for minor children (the guardian), whether you want to delay gifts until a beneficiary reaches a certain age or benchmark (using a trust) and you could include tax–planning provisions. You can also establish a pet trust in your will, make gifts to your favorite charity and minimize someone contesting your wishes. Thus, a will is a versatile tool to insure that your wishes are carried out when you are not there to do so.

No will? Not your way.

If there is no will, your next of kin may have to employ a more expensive and difficult process to handle your estate. The court will appoint who will be in charge and will distribute your assets by Texas law according to preset rules without regard to your wishes or particular family circumstances. This can take more time and require more expense because your survivors will not be able to take advantage of streamlined processes available for independent executors.

If you are in a non–traditional relationship, the biggest reason you should have a will is because you and your partner have NO legal rights unless they are in writing. Your relationship is not recognized under Texas law. Thus, if you die without a will, your “heirs at law” will be your beneficiaries, not your partner. That means your children or parents or siblings have a legal right to inherit your home, bank account, personal property, car, all of your assets. Your partner is not classified as an “heir” under Texas law and will receive nothing unless you put it in an enforceable written will.

Why can’t I just do a will on the Internet?

Internet wills are like spam. Lots of it, little use. You may wonder why a will from the Internet wouldn’t work. There are several pitfalls to that strategy. First, each state has its own legal requirements for a valid will. Thus, Texas residents want a document that complies with Texas law, not another state’s. A Texas lawyer who drafts wills and related documents (often called an estate planner) will be familiar with the Texas requirements and can insure that your document is legally enforceable. Remember that Internet services which promote fast and cheap wills seek to sell as many as possible so they are necessarily broad and vague. If you have children, a blended family, particular wishes about your assets or affairs or any nuance at all, a cookie–cutter will is simply insufficient. Also, if you do not get your will properly signed, witnessed or notarized in strict compliance with Texas law, it may not be admissible at all. And because you are not there to explain what you intended, there are no do–overs. Your survivors may inherit more headache than harmony and will contests frequently result. Finally, if you have a question about a generic document, will the 1–800 help desk in another country be able to answer your questions? Or ensure that the will is properly executed in Texas to minimize later cost or expense for your survivors? Or be there for your partner to probate the will?

An attorney–drafted Texas-tailored will is the best protection for your family, your relationship and for carrying out your wishes. A carefully crafted will can also include a no contest provision and other strategies to discourage a family member from meddling in your stated wishes.

A will sounds expensive.

Actually, a properly drafted estate plan is surprisingly affordable. How much depends on your particular circumstances, much like an automobile. Until your estate planner knows what features are right for you, it is hard to estimate cost. Rebecca Covell will meet with you for an initial consultation at no cost and can then estimate the fees involved. Finally, ask yourself, how much is security for my family worth?