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The Basics Vol. 1.01: What is a Will?

legal documentsWhat is a Will? Also called a Last Will and Testament, a Will is a document that almost everyone has heard of, but what it is?

A basic definition, found in Black’s Law Dictionary, tells us a Will is “a document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death.” A better description might be that a Will is a person’s last and best chance to be heard and to communicate their wishes when they are gone. A Will should also help ensure those wishes are expressed in a precise manner so they will be carried out with the minimum of expense, hassle, and conflict.

In addition, most well written Wills will include: the description of the Executor (the person who carries out the terms of the Will); the description of the Beneficiaries (the people who get the property); instructions as to how and when the Beneficiaries will receive the property. The person writing and signing a Will is generally called a Testator. A Will can be much more complicated and may have portions relating to burial requests, appointment of a guardian for minor children, making a charitable gift, creating a trust, or planning for payment of various taxes, debts, and expenses.

Wills can be written and signed or executed in a number of ways and still be valid from a entirely handwritten Will (which can be more difficult to prove as valid) to a “self-proving” Will. A “self-proving” Will, if signed and witnesses with correct language, will require no evidence outside the document itself to prove that it is valid, making the probate process very simple. The difficulty of proving a Will is valid or real can vary greatly depending on how it is written, signed, and witnessed.

It is important to note that a Will only deals with certain types of property. Property that generally passes under a Will includes a home, other real estate, or cars. This property is called “probate property.” However, there are types property, known as “non-probate property,” meaning that when an individual owning it dies it passes without the need for a Will or any legal proceedings. The most common examples of non-probate property are bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies.

When making a Will, every situation, for every individual, is different. It is always recommended that you consult a properly licensed attorney before making a Will.

Redding Law, PLLC intends this educational article to be an overview of a legal document, idea, or theory. The reader should note that this overview is specific to Texas and Texas laws and is not intended to be legal advice for any person or situation. To receive additional copies of this newsletter or permission to reprint any portion please contact Redding Law, PLLC.

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