Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Most Texans probably don’t believe they need a will. They think things like “I don’t care what happens to my stuff after I die;” “I’ve already told my family what I want done with my possessions;” “I don’t have enough money to worry about a will.” Or, my personal favorite, “I’m too young to worry about that kind of thing.” And Texans aren’t alone – one recent survey from the AARP estimated 60% of Americans don’t have a will. But, most Texans (and Americans) are wrong. Almost everyone needs a will. And that’s because a well-drafted will does much more than tell your relatives who gets what after you’re gone. Along with the rest of your estate plan, it can provide the most valuable thing of all – peace of mind.
How can a simple legal document help you sleep better at night? The short answer is this: it makes life a little easier for your loved ones. If you die without a will, you leave your family with the responsibility of figuring out things like how to pay your funeral expenses, who should be in charge of winding up your affairs ( closing your bank account, filing your income taxes, and etc.), trying to guess what you would have wanted, all on top of dealing with the impact of your death. Depending on your family situation, this taxing job could fall to your spouse, your parents, your children, or your siblings. But virtually all of those issues could be avoided with even a simple, straightforward will.
Without a will, even if you’ve clearly expressed your desires to your loved ones, your wishes may not be followed. This is because the law may have other ideas. Texas, like most other states, have default rules that apply if a person dies without a will in place. A will allows you to change those default rules almost any way you want to – who gets what, when, how, etc. Without it, your wishes really don’t matter. Maybe you aren’t close with your family, and want your friends or church to inherit your property instead. Well, unless you’ve put those wishes down in a will, they’re just that – wishes. No matter how many times you say it, or how many people you tell it to, nothing you want that deviates from the default rules is going to happen without a will. And because the default rules in place are designed to work for as many people and in as many situations as possible, there’s a good chance those rules don’t do what you, in particular, want them to. I’ve seen many cases in which, because there was no will, the default rules resulted in something everyone knew the deceased would not want. But, without a will, there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.
A will also saves you and your loved ones money in the long run. If you die without a will and have any property that passes through a title (such as a house or a car), your estate will likely have to go through a process called probate. Probate, which is essentially a court-supervised distribution of your possessions, is complicated, time-consuming, and above all, expensive. Your family will end up shelling out a lot of money from either your estate or their own pockets in court costs, attorney fees, and administrative costs. Having a will in place means your estate can often skip the probate process entirely. That, of course, means more of your property and money will go to the people you want to have it. This is even more reason for someone with a small estate to have a will – if you don’t have much to begin with, why risk losing any of it to the courts and lawyers?
Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, a will is a relatively simple, low-cost way to take care of the people you care about and ensure that your wishes are honored. If you’re interested in learning more about getting your own will in place, set up a consultation. We’ll be happy to help you start getting the peace of mind only a well-drafted will can provide.