SAN ANGELO, Texas — In a time of uncertainty, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, people should prepare for any event, which may include the death of a loved one.
A last will and testament can help avoid problems such as custodial issues for minors and asset distribution that could end up in a court.
A last will and testament, more commonly known as a will, is a document that has testamentary intent. It not only distributes assets it also designates a guardian for minors.
According to James Skinner, an attorney at Smith-Rose-Finley PC in San Angelo, "Testamentary intent is the desire to basically distribute your assets upon your passing to whoever you deem appropriate or desire and it doesn't have any formal form but it has to have testamentary intent."
Having an attorney prepare a will can cost a few hundred dollars, but pricing increases depending on the size of the estate and the complexity of the will.
There is only one type of will, however, the content varies depending on the assets of the person or testator.
Wills can be handwritten or typed by anyone without an attorney. Both types are legal if they meet certain requirements.
To be valid, a handwritten will must be written and signed by the testator. The will doesn’t need to be witnessed or notarized.
Typed wills or wills written by someone other than the testator, must be signed by the testator and witnessed by two people.
Individuals must be at least 14 years old to legally witness a will.
A notarized self-proving affidavit is attached to wills that require witness signatures. The self-proving affidavit is proof that the witnesses understand the document they signed and that the testator signed in front of them.
In the event a handwritten will is contested, handwriting experts or people familiar with the testator’s writing will be called to identify the writing.
The resolution of a contested will could take a few months or a few years. Whether or not a trial is needed will determine how long the resolution will take.
Skinner recommends that people should have a will once they turn 18. Wills become more important once individuals marry and have children.
Part of the will includes a designated guardian for minors. If a guardian is not designated a court will determine who the guardian will be for minors whose parents die before they reach 18.
He also recommends people in their second marriage or who have children outside the current marriage to review intestacy laws in Texas.
He explains that in some cases spouses were surprised when they found out assets would be divided with their stepchildren. Those assets sometimes include the current home.
Wills can be helpful when it comes to minors and couples with children outside the current marriage, but must meet all requirements to be legally binding.
Preparing a will does not require an attorney, however, if you have any questions or doubts, you may consider contacting one.