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  A common question people ask is, "Do I need a will?" The answer is no, you do not NEED a will, but passing away without a valid will often has unintended and unpleasant consequences. When a person passes away without a will, their estate (all the property they own) passes through the laws of intestacy to pre-determined beneficiaries chosen by the Texas legislature. The only way to avoid having your estate distributed to these pre-determined beneficiaries, in a proportion pre-determined by the legislature, is to have a validly executed will.

     By executing a will, a person may designate who should benefit from their estate and what those persons should take. A will allows you to gift specific items, such as a favorite piece of jewelry or family heirloom, to a specific person upon your passing. You may leave a gift to a charity or a dear friend. You may create a trust for minor children and decide at what age they child will receive the proceeds instead of a child controlling these assets at age eighteen. Additionally, the reality of blended families has created a greater need for wills. For example, under the laws of intestacy, a surviving spouse will not inherit the decedent's share of the house if the decedent has children from a prior relationship. This outcome can be avoided by executing a will.

     In addition to directing the distribution of your estate, a will allows you to designate an executor, who will handle your affairs, and a guardian for minor children should you and your spouse both pass away. In the absence of a will, the decision of who to carry out these important roles will be made by the court. Administration of an estate under a will is also less expensive and less cumbersome than under the laws of intestacy. Consequently, having a will can save your loved ones a lot of headaches, and preserve more of your estate for them to receive.

     It is important to note that the laws governing wills are complex, and failure to strictly comply with these laws may result in your will being invalid and your estate passing through the laws of intestacy. For this reason, it is important to discuss your wishes and will preparation with a licensed attorney.

Additional Important Documents

     There are several additional documents that allow you to make further decisions regarding your future, alleviating the burden on your loved ones and the necessity of court intervention. In a Declaration Of Guardian, you may designate the person who should care for your physical and financial needs in the event you become disabled or incapacitated. Without a Declaration Of Guardian, the court decides who will be responsible for these matters. A Medical Power Of Attorney allows you to designate a person to make decisions regarding your medical care in the event you become unable to make those decisions yourself. A HIPAA Release allows a designated person to access your private medical records to assist in your care. A Durable Power Of Attorney allows you, instead of the court, to designate a person to manage your estate and make financial decisions for you if you become disabled or incapacitated. A Directive To Physicians (commonly known as a living will) allows you to decide in advance when a physician should withdraw life-sustaining treatment should you suffer an injury or illness from which you are not expected to recover. Preparing these documents provides you with peace of mind that your wishes are known and that you have alleviated a great burden from your loved ones and potentially prevented disagreement and discord among them about how to proceed, should the unthinkable occur.