Recently, Kristin Wong at Lifehacker wrote a helpful article titled “How to Create a Will.” The attorney at the Weaver Firm took the time to dissect her article and add some helpful tips. We hope you enjoy.
“What Is a Will?
A will (or “last will and testament”) is a document that spells out what should happen to your assets after you die. It also designates guardianship of your children (and ownership of your pets), so even if you don’t own a bunch of property or have a bunch of assets, it’s a good idea to have a will.”
This is one of the best descriptions of why someone needs a Will I’ve ever seen. A Will covers any of your assets not designated with beneficiaries. This includes bank accounts, houses, vehicles, even pets. The next section deals with DIY Wills. The author lists some good reasons and options for drafting your own Will. The simplest way to create your own Will is to handwrite a Will and sign the Will at the bottom. Now I know what you are thinking . . . why would I give you advice on drafting your own Will when I do this for a living? The point of this website is to give you tools to live by. We’d love you to come to us with your Estate Planning questions, but we understand that isn’t always an option.
The author adds a great quote from a law school professor regarding DIY Wills and why you should avoid them:
“Three DIY will-making products—LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Quicken WillMaker Plus—were evaluated on a number of quality measures by a law school professor who specializes in estates and trusts. He found that all three produced wills that are better than having no will at all and can be good for thinking about estate planning…but there were problems inherent with all of the DIY products if you have anything but very simple will-making needs. For example, two had outdated information. Also, some specific tax and trust issues couldn’t be handled by the software… If you have dependents, special tax issues, want to address digital assets, or just want to make sure your will is as comprehensive as can be, your best bet is to consult a lawyer.”
You can count on the Weaver Firm to stay up to date on the latest changes to the law and how it affects you.
Here are the author’s things to expect when you meet with an Attorney about a Will(with a few choice edits from me):
“Pick an executor: This is the person who handles your property, assets, and everything else after you die. They won’t have control until after you go, but at that time, a probate court will give them power. Obviously, you want this person to be someone you trust to handle your affairs, maybe your spouse or one of your children.”
The Weaver Firm Addition: This person has a duty to gather your assets and follow the terms of the Will. Your Will can name someone as Independent Executor or Dependent. Independent Executors act without further Probate Court interference. Dependent Executors must submit their actions to the Probate Court prior to taking ANY action with the Estate.
“Designate your beneficiaries: The people who will inherit your assets — everything from your retirement savings to your person possessions — are called beneficiaries, and you want to designate them for everything you own. If you have pets, they’re considered property in your will, and you’ll designate who will inherit them, too. (Keep in mind, though, beneficiaries are not legally required to take care of pets, so you want to clear this with the person beforehand).”
The Weaver Firm Addition: If you really need help planning for Pets, check out our article about Planning for Pooches. The author raises one important point.
“If there’s someone in your family you want to make sure doesn’t receive anything, experts say you should detail that, too. As one estate planning attorney told U.S. News:
“Name that person and say that they aren’t getting anything,” Colby advises. “Otherwise, the implication could be that you forgot about them, and you could find your will challenged in court.'”
The Weaver Firm Addition: We always recommend naming all of your children in your Will, even if you are disinheriting them. A simple omission now could lead to years of litigation down the road.
As the author winds up her article, she includes two last points which I found very helpful.
Add a letter: If you want to say something to your loved ones after you die, write a “last letter” and attach it to your will.”
The Weaver Firm Addition: We even recommend sitting down and discussing your Estate plan with your family. Let the Executor know what his or her duties are. Let the guardians know why you named them as guardians for your children. Often, an honest discussion between family members (preferably NOT around the holidays) can avoid future issues.
“Get witnesses to sign your will: Finally, in order for your will to be legally binding, you need witnesses. Usually, this means you need two signatures from people who aren’t listed as beneficiaries. A notary might be the best person for this, although it’s not required.”
The Weaver Firm Addition: This is the only section, I wanted to clarify from the article. In Texas, a Will needs two independent witnesses (witnesses who are not beneficiaries or “interested” in the Estate) to sign in the presence of the Testator (the person whose Will we drafted) and in the presence of a notary public. If you are feeling extra efficient, include a self proving affidavit to avoid bringing witnesses to Probate Court down the road.
All in all, this article, written by a non lawyer, is pretty solid advice. Our job at the Weaver Firm is to go above and beyond average advice. If you have questions about Wills and Estate Planning, call our office at 817.638.9016 or email us at TWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net.