In Texas, a Last Will and Testament, commonly referred to as a will, allows a person to designate and gift property and other assets to a beneficiary. The beneficiary may be an immediate family member, relative, friend, or other charity or institution. There is a mistaken belief that wills are only necessary if a person has significant funds or property. However, in reality, a will is a crucial tool to distribute even modest savings and personal items. A will allows a person to clarify what they want to be done with their property, such as their home, investments, retirement plans, insurance benefits, and personal mementos. Furthermore, wills allow a person to appoint a guardian for their minor children.
There are many reasons people forego drafting and executing this critical document. Some hesitation may stem from the psychological and emotional connection between wills and the thought of passing away. However, putting off a will until a person is emotionally ready can have long-term consequences for their loved ones. If a person dies without a will, their loved ones may need to go through a lengthy and complicated probate process. The probate process can be emotionally charged and cause loved ones to experience hurdles and financial setbacks.
For example, the recent death of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman has shed light on the consequences of not having a will. According to a recent CNBC news report, the 43-year-old who died after battling colon cancer died without a will, leaving his estate’s distribution to the courts. His wife requested the court name her as the administrator of her deceased husband’s estate. Although some of the late actor’s accounts, such as qualifying retirement accounts and life insurance, may not need to go through the probate process.
Some people believe that a self-made will be sufficient; however, estate planning experts suggest going through a Texas estate-planning lawyer to determine what other tools may be helpful. Resources available to the public may provide a guidepost, however, there is no guarantee those resources are in line with current changes in the law, or even apply in the person’s state. An ineffective will may result in court intervention, causing additional strain on loved ones.
Individuals should contact an attorney to discuss all parts of their estate plan, including durable powers of attorney, health-care powers of attorney, and living wills. A durable power of attorney allows a person to assign someone else to make financial decisions on their behalf, if they are too sick or otherwise unable to do so on their own. Similarly, a health-care power of attorney allows a person to designate a person to handle medical decisions if they become sick and cannot make decisions. Finally, unlike a last will and testament, a living will allows a person to express their wishes for life-saving medical treatment, including intubation and resuscitation.
Seeking Assistance from a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or someone you love wants to learn more about your options under Houston estate planning laws, contact McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. The Texas Estate Planning and Elder Law attorneys at our office have extensive experience handling all facets estate planning. We provide counsel and advice for older adults and their families who want to learn more about protecting themselves and their loved ones. Our attorneys have more than 35 years of experience drafting effective estate planning documents, addressing retirement planning and long-term care on behalf of Houston residents. Contact our office at 713-333-8900 to schedule a consultation with an attorney on our team.