Why Do I Need a Will?*

I always advise and encourage my clients to think about end-of-life matters we would prefer to put off:  what will happen if I die or lose my health?  Are my will and other documents and instructions up to date?  Will my doctors and family know what to do when I can’t communicate or handle my own affairs?  Will the uncovering of my property and debts, if I am unable, unduly burden those close to me?  Let’s look at the alternatives:

Here’s what happens in Texas if you die without a will [Intestate Succession]:

If you die WITHOUT a will survived by a spouse and children:

  • Separate property
    [Property you owned before marriage, or received through gift or inheritance during your marriage] Your spouse receives one-third of the separate personal property and a life estate in one-third of the separate real property. Your children get the rest.
  • Community property
    [Generally, all property obtained during your marriage except through gift or inheritance] Your spouse keeps all of your property if all of your surviving children are of the same spouse.
    If you die leaving children by a prior marriage, they receive your one-half interest in the community property, not your surviving spouse.
  • Guardianship for Minor Heir
    The Court must appoint a guardian if your children are under 18 – an expensive Court-supervised proceeding.

If NOT survived by a spouse or by children:

  • All property is divided according to statutory formula among the decedent’s parents, brothers and sisters, and/or their descendants.  (Tex. Estates Code Ch. 201).

And finally:

  • Dependent Probate Administration
    Costly and cumbersome court-supervised administration.
  • Unfavorable Lasting Impression
    An intestate decedent leaves his/her financial affairs in a mess the heirs have to clean up.

And here’s what you can do if you DO write a Will:

  • Control your Property
    You decide who gets your property, and when.
  • Independent Execution of your Instructions
    Your executor needs only prepare an Inventory and Appraisement of your estate and might not have to file it with the Court as a public record. There is no bond or other Court supervision.
  • Trusts for your Beneficiaries
    You can provide financial management for your minor children, or up to a later age, and create enormous tax savings. You can provide for asset protection with spendthrift provisions in your trusts.
  • Select Executor, Guardian & Trustee
    You decide who will carry out your instructions and designate a replacement.
  • Control of Tax Consequences
    Your use of trusts and gifts can substantially reduce, or even eliminate Federal Estate Taxes and State Inheritance Taxes.

Additional opportunities:

  • Directive to Physicians
    You decide if your life should be artificially prolonged, if afflicted with a terminal or irreversible disease.
  • Medical Power of Attorney
    You may designate an agent to make a health care decision, if you are unable to do so.
  • Durable Power of Attorney
    You may name an “attorney in fact” to act in your behalf, if you later become disabled or to continue acting in your behalf, if you become unavailable or disabled.
  • HIPAA Authorization
    You decide who may receive information about your health from your medical providers.
  • Lifetime Estate & Gift Tax Exclusion
    For 2019, the inflation-adjusted estate tax exclusion amount is $11.4 million.  This means a person dying in 2019 can transfer up to $11.4 million ($22.8 million for a married couple reduced by lifetime taxable gifts) at death without paying estate tax.
  • Annual Gift Exclusions
    Up to $15,000 per person or $30,000 per couple can be given annually to a trust or adult family member, which is then excluded from the donor’s estate, in addition to the lifetime exclusion.
  • Anatomical Gifts
    may donate your tissues for transplant or medical research.
  • Air transport miles
    may donate your travel miles to whomever you choose.

I guarantee you with proven documents and techniques you can easily protect your personal safety and your estate for the benefit of your family and save your loved ones money and heartache. Call my office and let’s talk about it.

Please remember the law changes constantly.  The information in this article may have changed by the time you read it.  You should always consult with an attorney familiar with Probate, Trusts, and Estate Taxation, for the most current information and lawful provisions for your wills, trusts, and other end-of-life documents.

©Stuart Evan Glass, 2013

* It’s the best gift you can give your loved ones.

Written by Stuart Evan Glass

Stuart Evan Glass is a member of the State Bar of Texas and practices Commercial Law; Business Law; Family Law; Collaborative Divorce; Child Custody; Civil Litigation; Personal Injury; Probate; Automobile Accidents and Injuries; Corporate Law & Business Formation law.