Why Do I Need a Last Will?

McNair Dallas Law

Life Insurance Proceeds

If you die without a will, you die “intestate” and your assets will be distributed according to your state’s law. That could result in a distribution you didn’t intend.

Some people mistakenly think that not having a last will allows their probate assets to bypass the time and expense of probate. No, that is not true.

Probate assets are those assets with no surviving joint owner, designated beneficiary, or are not titled in a revocable living trust.  Many people have heard horror stories about expensive, protracted probates, but the process in Texas is usually much less complicated, less time consuming, and less expensive than in other states.  Texas allows for “independent administration” if the right wording is used in the will.  This makes it vital that you consult with an experienced Texas elder law attorney if your will was drafted in another state.

If you die without a last will, your probate property still must go through probate, says Fed Week’s recent article entitled “Expressing Your Will with a Will.”

Therefore, you should have a will. If probate avoidance is a concern, you can ask an experienced estate planning attorneyAttorney John McNair about utilizing various non-probate transfer methods, to include creating a trust. If you have a revocable living trust, you can keep control over the trust assets while you are alive.

The assets placed in revocable living trust during your lifetime can be distributed at your death, under the terms of the trust, without the requirement of probate.

When you draft a last will, you cannot simply forget about it. Special life events, such as births, adoptions, deaths, marriages, and divorces, all may require you to revisit your will. After each change, make certain that your current will is both safe and accessible. You can leave a copy of your will with your executor.

If you decide to keep your will somewhere else, your executor and other loved ones should know that location. The estate planning attorney who prepared your will should have a copy, as well as a memo revealing the location of the original.

Regardless of where you put your will, you should create a separate document for your funeral and burial instructions. That is because wills typically are not read until days or weeks after death.

It will not help your survivors make prompt decisions about a funeral or a memorial service.

A separate letter should be used to specify your final wishes and your executor should know where these instructions are located.

These arrangements include seeing if there is a pre-arranged funeral plan, meeting with a funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral services, confirming cemetery arrangements and choosing the necessary casket or urn, grave marker and funeral stationery.

Reference: Fed Week (Feb. 22, 2022) “Expressing Your Will with a Will”

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