People ask,  “When Should I get a Will?”   I respond, only somewhat jokingly, “Texas already has one for you.”

The State of Texas doesn’t have an actual Will for you, but the legislators have enacted a set of defaults in the event you don’t have a Will.  These laws are called laws of “intestate succession.”  In other words, if you don’t have a Last Will and Testament in Texas, politicians have decided who will inherit your estate.

So, who would be better at making important decisions about who will inherit your hard-earned assets:  politicians or you?

Assuming you’d rather make those decisions, when in your life should you get a Last Will and Testament? You shouldn’t wait until you’re elderly before thinking about estate planning, and estate planning is definitely not just for the rich.

 

 

When Should You Get A Will?  6 Common Life Stages

1 – Just Turned 18

That’s right, even broke teenagers should consider estate planning.  Since parents are no longer legal guardians, young adults need to think about what might happen if they’re in an accident.  It would be wise to get a Medical Power of Attorney and a “Living Will.”  These documents handle what will happen in the event the young person is hospitalized.

These documents are cheap to have prepared by our Dallas-area attorneys and a smart choice for every accident-prone young person.  

By the way if you’re the parent of a adult child who has recently turned age 18, then please contact us to help your now-adult-child create a medical power of attorney, durable general power of attorney and HIPAA Release, at a minimum.  We offer a flat-rate fee to make it incredibly easy and affordable to get these documents. 

 

2 – Young, Employed, But Single

At this point, the young professional should make sure that retirement accounts have the correct beneficiary designations.  Don’t leave those blank.

 Also, the young professional should get a Last Will & Testament, even if it’s very basic.  In Texas, by default in the absence of a Will, all the property of an unmarried deceased person with no kids will go to his parents.  Most young people would prefer to name their siblings or even a charity as beneficiaries of their estates.  The only way to make this election is through a valid Will.

Long story short, many people quip, “Do I really need a will if I don’t own anything?”  Once you have your first job and a little savings, now you do own something, and it’s time to get a Will!

 

3 – In A Relationship But Not Married

People in a long-term relationship have special considerations when it comes to estate planning.  For instance, if the couple wants to own property together, they should consider how the property is titled.

How property is titled can have huge ramifications for how the property will be passed on if one of the co-owners dies.  If the property is titled as “tenancy in common,” the deceased person’s estate will dictate where his share will go.  However, if the property is titled as “joint tenancy with right or survivorship,” the deceased person’s share automatically  goes to the surviving co-owner.

The moral of the story here is that cohabitating with a significant other and/or co-owning assets with another person can have serious ramifications on who gets what if that relationship ends or if one of those people dies.  In fact, without planning, it can be be a disaster!

Talk with an estate planning attorney if you’re in a serious relationship because there are simple and inexpensive documents that could save you and your family an enormous amount of hassle and expense, such as a premarital agreement (“prenup”), a power of attorney, and a Will.

 

4 – Married But No Children

In Texas, by default, if a deceased spouse passes away without children, his wife will inherit much of his estate.  However, as you may know, Texas is a “community property state,” which means that every married person owns two classes of property–community property and separate property.

 Without a Will (we call this dying “intestate”), the Texas laws of intestacy say that the surviving spouse inherits all of the deceased spouse’s community property but only half of the deceased spouse’s separate property if the deceased spouse had surviving parents or siblings.  It only gets more complicated from there, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Long story short, don’t assume that your spouse automatically gets everything when you die.  That may not be the case in the absence of a Will.  Your husband or wife could be one of your heirs, but he or she may not be your only heir.  That fact surprises many people in Texas. A basic “sweetheart will” will ensure that your sweetie pie gets everything when you die, if that’s what you want.

 Newlyweds love Shutt Law Firm’s all-inclusive “Wills PLUS Package,” because it is essentially a one-stop-shop estate plan…  The couple can quickly and affordably create Texas wills, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, advance directives, and much more.  

 

5 – Married With Children

Now getting a Will has just gotten even more important.  With children, you need a Will so that there’s a legal plan in place in the event you die before your children reach adulthood.  In Texas, your Last Will says who you’d like to serve as guardians of your children.  

Your Will also sets up trusts for your children since your minor children can’t legally inherit property outright.  We call these “contingent testamentary trusts,” and they’re basically a component of a really nice Will prepared by a Texas attorney.  The good news is that Shutt Law Firm does not charge any extra fees for preparation of contingent testamentary trusts.

 

6 – Happily Ever After

Everyone recognizes the need for estate planning documents in our golden years, so I won’t go into that much.  Suffice it to say, if you’re in retirement and don’t have a Last Will, a Living Will, a Medical Power of Attorney, a Durable General Power of Attorney, a Declaration of Guardian…

Then, you need to go meet with an estate planning lawyer to get you squared away.

 

As a final note, keep in mind that all of the documents discussed here can be easily revoked, updated, modified, and replaced as you age.  And, none of these basic estate planning documents is expensive to have done by a lawyer.  My law office is set up specifically to assist clients with these basic estate planning documents, so getting them is affordable and easy.

Though it sounds simplistic, I recommend you get a Will before you need one.  The problem is, you don’t know when it will be too late to get a Will.  We don’t know when we’ll become mentally incapacitated, become deathly ill, or get involved in a deadly car crash.

If you become seriously ill and then decide to finally hire a lawyer to write your Will, there is a higher likelihood that your Will will be challenged in probate court.  For example, in a recent case (In Re Estate of Arrington), a father waited until after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness to write a Will.

I commend this father for trying to care of his family by getting a Will made.  However, in light of the court battle and family fighting that resulted from his last-minute DIY Will, it probably would have been preferable to have had an attorney draft the Will years earlier.

A few hundred dollars to hire an estate planning lawyer to draft a Will could have saved thousands of dollars in legal fees and  could have prevented family fighting.

We can’t always anticipate when we’ll get sick or get injured, so it’s best to be ready.  It’s like Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Despite popular belief, Wills aren’t just for wealthy people or older people; if you have any property and have any family or friends, you should get a Will.  Also, a dedicated Texas Wills attorney will help ensure that your Will is executed properly under Texas law and will minimize the likelihood of a Will contest.  Better yet, you could consider having a Texas Revocable Living Trust, which could keep your estate out of probate court altogether.

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Visit www.ShuttLawFirm.com for more information on Texas Wills, a Dallas Last Will and Testament, deciding when you should get a Will, if you should even get a Will in Texas, the problem with online Wills or online Wills, contact Dallas, Texas wills lawyers at Shutt Law Firm.  

Shutt Law Firm’s estate planning law office is conveniently located in Richardson, Texas, just north of Dallas, TX, near the intersection of highway 75 and Arapaho Road.

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You can Shutt Law Firm’s will and trust attorneys at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this article or to discuss a different legal matter.   Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you’re looking for a Dallas, TX law office for wills creation, Dallas Wills Lawyer, Dallas estate planning law, trust attorney near Dallas, TX, or estate planning attorney in the Plano area.

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DISCLAIMER:  Nothing in this brief article constitutes legal advice.  The information provided herein is merely provided in the spirit of education.  If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney for your specific legal situation.   Further, nothing in this article shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship.  No such relationship exists until both you and one of Shutt Law Firm’s lawyers sign an engagement letter.

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