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Why Should I Have a Will?

Many Americans neglect preparing a Will, for a variety of reasons.  The most common reasons given are that they are too busy, they don't want to think about death, they don't know who to distribute their property to, and they wish to avoid the cost and time involved.  However, having a Will has many benefits that far outweigh the negatives, and is important to each individual and his or her family.  Today's blog post will outline the basic benefits of having a Will.

Choice of beneficiaries

The most obvious purpose of a Will is that you can choose who will receive your property.  If you don't have a Will, Texas law defines who your heirs are and provides for a distribution to your heirs in varying proportions.  Often, such distribution is not desirable.  In your Will, you can designate whoever you would like to receive your property, including charitable organizations.  

Avoiding heirship proceedings

Probating a Decedent's estate without a Will necessitates heirship proceedings, which is a legal means of determining who your heirs are.  Complex heirship laws govern these proceedings, and must be followed precisely so as to avoid distributing property to some but not all of the rightful heirs.  Potential heirs typically include surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings and grandchildren.  After proper legal notice to the potential heirs, the Court is required to appoint an Attorney Ad Litem.  The Attorney Ad Litem is a local attorney chosen by the Court to take on the responsibility of searching out any missing or unknown heirs.  This process includes independent investigation and research into the Decedent's family background and discussions with independent, disinterested witnesses.   Any located heirs are included in the heirship proceedings.  If no additional heirs are located, the Attorney Ad Litem reports to the Court that despite the exercise of due diligence, no additional heirs were located.  Two disinterested witnesses must attend a Court hearing to testify about the Decedent's family history.  Heirship proceedings are comparatively more expensive than the simple probate of a valid Will.

Designation of Guardian

If a parent dies and is survived by children that are minors, and the children's other parent is deceased or otherwise incapable of properly caring for the children, the Court must appoint a Guardian to have authority to care for them.  In a Will, a parent can designate his or her preference of who should serve as Guardian, and can even designate back-ups in case the designated Guardian is not available to serve.   While the statistical chances of a parent dying while leaving minor children, and with the other parent being incapable of properly caring for the children is small, it is nevertheless important to name who should serve as Guardian in case this happens.  Otherwise, the Court is required to select a Guardian without the benefit of the deceased parent's input.

If you have not yet prepared a Will, or if your Will is outdated, you should make creating a new Will a top priority.  The attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have significant experience preparing Wills and other estate planning documents.  Contact the attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio to arrange a free consultation to discuss your estate plan.



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Houston, Texas 77079
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