Why Do I Need a Will?

A will, also called a “last will and testament,” helps you protect your family and property after you pass.  In your will you can leave your property to individuals or organizations of your choosing, designate the person who will care for your minor children, name someone to manage property you leave to your minor children, and name the person who makes sure your wishes are followed (executor).  A will gives you an opportunity to plan for what happens to your family and property after you pass.

What Happens If I Don’t Have a Will?

If you die without a will, there may be significant chaos and discord regarding what happens to your estate.  In Texas, when you die without a will, statute takes over and your property is distributed to your heirs according to “intestacy” laws.  Texas intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, as defined by state law.  The law does not play favorites and the distribution of assets under intestacy laws isn’t always fair.  For example, you may want all your assets to go to your spouse, but under intestacy laws, some of your assets may go to your children, brothers and sisters, or even your parents.  If the court finds that you have no living relatives, then the state will take your property.

Requirements For Signing a Will in Texas

Texas law requires that you be of sound mind when making a will.  Sound mind means that the person has sufficient mental capacity to understand their actions.  In addition, you must be one of the following:

  • 18 years or older
  • married or previously married, or
  • a member of the U.S. armed forces

The will must be in the form of a hard copy, meaning it is on actual paper.  Texas permits handwritten wills, but these types of wills can have complications, so it is best to type the will for clarity.

Signing Your Will

To complete your will, it must be signed in front of two witnesses and the witnesses must sign your will in front of you.  Witnesses must be at least 14 years old.  A holographic will doesn’t require witnesses.

Does My Will Need to Be Notarized?

Texas law does not require that you have your will notarized.  However, Texas law allows you to make your will “self-proving” which does require a notary.  It is generally a good idea to make your will self-proving because it simplifies the probate process.  A self-proving affidavit can be signed and notarized at the time the will is signed, although it can be created later as well.

What If I Want to Change My Will Later?

Texas law allows you to revoke or change your will at any time unless you have entered a contract stating you will not change your will.  You can revoke your will by destroying or canceling all or part of your will, making a new will that says it revokes the old will, or through another writing that formally says that it revokes the prior will.

How Do I Get Started?

Graham Legal offers a comprehensive will package including several important documents for estate planning.  The package includes the will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, declaration of guardian, and living will.  This package costs $800 for individuals or $1,400 for a couple.