The core of an estate plan is a document known as a will, the legal document that tells your heirs and the court how you want your assets handled upon your death. If you don’t have a will and you die, decisions about the distribution of your possessions and property are made by a judge, who likely doesn’t know who you are, or what you might have wanted to happen to your assets. If you have minor children and have not had a will created, then a judge will also be the one making the decisions about your children. That’s probably not what you or your family want to have happen.
Health Day’s recent article, “Wills & Living Wills,” provides some general rules for writing a will:
- In most states, you must be 18 years of age or older.
- The testator (author) of the will must be of sound mind for the will to be valid.
- The document must clearly state that it’s your will.
- You must name an executor–that’s the individual who will see that your estate is distributed, according to your wishes.
- You must sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses.
- In many instances, notarizing or recording your will is not required. However, it can protect against any claims that it's invalid.
- You and your spouse should have separate wills.
You should also review your will regularly and consider making changes if:
- The value of your assets changes.
- You marry, divorce, remarry, or expand your family with another child.
- You move to a different state.
- Your executor passes away or becomes incapacitated, or your relationship changes.
- One of your heirs or a loved one dies.
- The probate and tax laws affecting your estate change.
It’s also important to draft an advance directive. This includes a living will with directions on what medical care you do or don't want, if you're unable to speak.
Your best course of action is to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney in Houston and let him or her guide you through the estate planning process. Because every state has different rules, your estate planning attorney will know what your state does and does not allow.
Reference: Health Day (March 21, 2018) “Wills & Living Wills”