A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, allows you to give assets to specific people and organizations and allows you to name an Executor to settle your affairs. Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to state law, which may not be how they would have wished. For example, assets are divided between a spouse and children, instead of being distributed directly to your spouse first, as many would want. Texas allows for the creation of a variety of wills. In order to become effective, a will must be probated in court.
If your estate is modest and you want to pass all of your assets to only one or two beneficiaries, a simple will may work for you. A simple will allows you to appoint an executor, state your wishes, and may decrease the time and expense spent during the probate process. These work well when there are no family disputes that may lead to litigation.
If you want to pass your assets to multiple beneficiaries or to beneficiaries based on special conditions, a complex will may work for you. A complex will requires detailed drafting to meet your special needs and desires. Complex wills may include tax planning, creating trusts within your will for certain beneficiaries, or coordinating beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance.
Tax Planning Wills
A tax planning will is used to minimize estate taxes, leaving more of your assets to your beneficiaries. This type of will can prevent your family from being forced to sell your business, your home, or other assets to pay the estate tax after your passing. U.S. estate tax laws are constantly changing, so it is best to discuss this with an attorney.
Wills With Built-in Trusts
If you have a substantial estate that you are planning to leave to a young individual, someone with special needs, or someone you believe is not mature enough to manage assets, a will with a built-in trust may work for you. These will allow you to name a trustee to manage the beneficiary's property. The trust rules will ensure that the beneficiary is allowed access to an amount of assets that you believe is reasonable, while safeguarding the other assets so they are not squandered. You may also delay the statutory distribution at age eighteen until the beneficiary is older.
Wills may be the most appropriate estate planning instrument for some people; others seek alternative planning through revocable or irrevocable trusts to prevent their estates from going through probate. They do so to minimize the inconvenience and expense to loved ones, and to keep their dispositions private. Please see the Living Trust practice area for more information on why a trust may be best for your circumstances.