When should you get a will?  When I explain that my law practice is fairly narrowly focused on Wills & Probate Law, people ask, “So, when should I get a Will?”  You shouldn’t wait until you’re elderly before thinking about estate planning, and estate planning is definitely not just for the rich.

An article in the July 16 edition of Forbes outlines the common life stages people should consider estate planning.

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 professionally prepared and a smart choice for every accident-prone young person.

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.


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.


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.  A basic “sweetheart will” will ensure that your sweetie pie gets everything when you die, if that’s what you want.



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.  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.



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.




Visit www.ShuttLawFirm.com for more information on Texas Last Will and Testaments, when you should get a will in Texas, how much does a will cost in Texas, a living will, medical power of attorney, or any other Texas estate planning question, contact Dallas, Texas Wills & Probate lawyer Isaac Shutt at ishutt@shuttlawfirm.com.

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


You can also call Mr. Shutt at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this article or to discuss a different legal matter. For existing clients, quick phone-calls and brief e-mails are always free at Shutt Law Firm PLLC. Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you need letters testamentary, how to serve as executor in Texas, how to probate in Texas, Last Will and Testament, or you need a probate attorney in Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen, McKinney, Garland, Addison, TX or surrounding North Texas area.


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 attorney Isaac Shutt sign an engagement letter with the Shutt Law Firm, PLLC.