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Wills

Wills – The Cornerstones of Estate Planning Documents

At Texas Probate Pros, we understand the a complete estate plan.  Estate planning encompasses more than just wills.  You also need a medical directive to communicate your wishes to your doctor; a medical power of attorney to give someone the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated, and a durable power of attorney to allow someone to manage your finances if you are incapacitated.  It is important that you have each of these documents clearly communicate your wishes to ensure that you are taken care of properly if you cannot make your own decisions.  We have developed a Complete Estate Planning Package to, for one price, create all of the necessary documents at one time.

Texas Probate Pros Comprehensive Guide to Estate Planning

The Process

Texas Probate Pros is an innovative law firm and unlike any law firm you may have dealt with in the past.  We used to be a traditional law firm, but COVID-19 taught us that we can better serve our clients through virtual meetings rather than in person.  This way, you don’t have to drive to our office, and wait in our waiting room for a lawyer to meet with you for 30 minutes, then have to drive home.  Instead, our process is completely virtual.  We know we work differently than most law firms, but this is by design.  We work with our clients virtually because it is more convenient for you.  We also work virtually because it allows us to have fewer staff and minimal offices which reduces our costs.  We pass our savings on to you.  Our services would be roughly twice the price if we worked the way traditional law firms work.

Initial Contact

We understand the sensitivities people feel about thinking about the inevitable.  We have confronted them ourselves.  Although the inevitable is difficult to consider, we believe that writing a will is the most considerate thing you can do for your family.  From the first contact, we promise to treat you like family, but we also want to give you the space to make these important decisions.  We will have some questions for you to determine if all you need is a simple will or if your assets require something more complex.  Most clients only need a simple will, but we want to make sure.  When you first contact us either by phone or email, we will walk you through our process and answer any questions you may have and discuss our pricing.

Engagement Agreement

After a client tells us they want to work with Texas Probate Pros, we will send an engagement agreement via email for your electronic signature.  This document explains our process and what you can expect from us, as well as what is expected of you.  This is an important document and your signature actually authorizes us to begin work.  We unfortunately cannot ethically begin drafting documents for you until this engagement agreement is signed.  We always want to be transparent with our pricing, so we will at this time also send an invoice for our services.  This fee can be paid either by credit card or electronic check and can be done online.  We will provide a link to make the payment on a secure portal.

Estate Planning Questionnaire

After your initial contact with our office, you also have homework for us.  We want to give you time to think about your wishes for how you want your estate to be distributed, who will be the executor, and more importantly if you have minor children, who will beitheir guardians.  We also want to know what your wishes are for your medical care if you are incapacitated, who will make those decisions, and who will be allowed to make financial decisions.  As such, we have devised an Estate Planning Questionnaire that we send to every client and ask that they complete.  Your answers in this document will contain everything our estate planning lawyers need to know to write a comprehensive will and estate plan to achieve your desires.  We ask that you complete this document within 10 business days and return to us through our secure document portal.

Estate Planning Attorneys Draft Will and Other Estate Planning Documents

After you send us your completed Estate Planning Questionnaire, our attorneys will review your responses and determine if they have everything they need to proceed or if they have any questions that need clarification.  If our estate planning lawyers need more information, they will contact you and ask.  Otherwise, they will proceed and write your will and other estate planning documents.  After the documents are written, we will then upload the draft documents to our secure online file exchange portal for your review.  At this time, if you see anything during your review that needs to be changed, please contact us and we will immediately make the change.  Otherwise we will proceed to the next step, a virtual meeting to discuss the document and aswer any questions.

Virtual Meeting to Review Will and Estate Planning Documents

When we send the completed documents for your review, we will also send a link to our calendar to schedule a virtual meeting with the lawyer assigned to your case.  At this meeting, the lawyer will read through the documents with you and explain the major points.  We will also be sure to answer any questions you may have.  If anything needs to change in the documents based on our conversation, our lawyers will make the necessary changes.  If not, the documents will be finalized.  We will then send you a completed will and powers of attorney for you to print and execute.

Document Execution

Having the will and other estate planning documents written is the first step, but for these documents to be legally valid, they must be properly executed.  Proper execution of a will in Texas requires a notary and two witnesses, none of whom should be named in your will as either executor or beneficiary.  You will take your documents to a notary of your choice along with your two witnesses.  The easiest place for this to happen is at your bank, we recommend making an appointment so you don’t have to wait in line.  Some financial advisors have notaries in their office and if you work with one that does, they would be more than happy to notarize and some may even provide witnesses.  Also the UPS stores and many grocery stores at their customer service desk offer notary services (and some even offer witnesses) for a small charge.

Final Documents

After your Will and other estate planning documents are fully executed, we would like a copy uploaded to our portal if you possibly can.  That way we know you finalized everyhing.  You will want to staple all of the pages of the will together and never remove the staple.  Similarly, you will want to staple the pages of your powers of attorney.  All of these documents should be stored in a secure location that is easily accessable to your executor and power of attorney.  We recommend a fireproof box.  It can remain unlocked, but a fireproof box or safe is the best place to ensure your documents do not get destroyed by a fire.

Annual Review

We recommend that you review your will and other documents every year to determine if any changes need to be made.  Texas Probate Pros chooses not to offer an annual review service because we don’t want to automatically charge our clients a fee every year.  We do, however, offer discounts if you determine that your will or powers of attorney need to be changed.  Just call us and let us know that you were a previous client.  We will look you up in our system and provide you with the discounted service charge.

Prices

In order to provide full transparancy, we believe in fixed pricing for our simple wills and estate planning. 

Complete Estate Planning Package

Our Complete Estate Planning package is our most popular.  This package includes the following documents:

  • Simple Will (this is all most people need)
  • Living Will (also known as a Directive to Physicians)
  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (also known as Financial Power of Attorney)
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Medical Directive

For a single person, we offer all of these documents at a package rate of $1,200.  For a married couple, we charge $2,000 for all documents for both husband and wife.  Note, every person needs their own estate planning documents.  It would be malpractice for us to provide a single document for both spouses.

How Often Should You Review Your Will?

Regularly reviewing your will is a crucial aspect of maintaining an effective estate plan. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are general guidelines and specific situations that warrant a review of your will. Here’s how often you should consider reviewing your will to ensure it remains current and valid:

Recommended Timeframes

Every 3-5 Years

  • As a general rule, it’s advisable to review your will every 3-5 years. This regular review helps you stay on top of any changes in your personal circumstances, financial situation, or relevant laws that may affect your estate plan.

Immediate Review After Major Life Events

Certain life events should trigger an immediate review of your will. These include:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Death of a beneficiary or executor
  • Significant changes in your financial status
  • Acquiring or selling significant assets
  • Moving to a new state

Changes in Relationships

  • If there are substantial changes in your personal relationships, such as becoming estranged from a beneficiary or reconciling with someone previously excluded, it’s important to update your will to reflect these changes.

Regular Check-Ups with an Estate Planning Attorney

Annual or Biennial Meetings

  • Scheduling annual or biennial meetings with your estate planning attorney can ensure that your will and overall estate plan are regularly reviewed and updated. During these meetings, your attorney can help identify any necessary changes and ensure your will remains compliant with current laws.

Staying Informed About Legal Changes

  • Laws related to estate planning and probate can change over time. Regular check-ups with your attorney help you stay informed about any legal updates that may affect your will. This proactive approach can prevent potential issues and ensure your estate plan remains effective and legally sound.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Updating Your Will

Updating your will is a crucial task that ensures your estate plan reflects your current wishes and circumstances. However, it’s easy to make mistakes during this process. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when updating your will:

Not Updating After Major Life Events

Life Changes Ignored

  • Failing to update your will after major life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary, can lead to unintended consequences. Ensure your will is reviewed and updated promptly after any significant life change.

Periodic Reviews Overlooked

  • Even without major life changes, neglecting to review your will every few years can result in outdated provisions that no longer reflect your intentions.

Failing to Communicate Changes to Beneficiaries

Lack of Transparency

  • Not informing your beneficiaries about changes to your will can create confusion and disputes after your passing. Communicate major updates to those affected to avoid surprises and ensure everyone understands your intentions.

Executor Awareness

  • Ensure your executor is aware of the updates and knows where to find the most recent version of your will. This can help streamline the probate process and prevent delays.

Overlooking Changes in Laws

State and Federal Law Updates

  • Estate planning laws can change over time. Failing to update your will to comply with new state or federal laws can render parts of your will invalid or less effective. Stay informed about legal changes and consult with an estate planning attorney regularly.

Tax Law Changes

  • Changes in tax laws can impact your estate plan. Make sure your will takes advantage of any new tax benefits or strategies to minimize tax liabilities for your beneficiaries.

Not Properly Executing Updates

Improper Execution

  • A will must be executed according to state law requirements to be valid. In Texas, this includes signing the will in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the document. Failing to follow these requirements can lead to your will being contested or deemed invalid.

Witness Requirements

  • Ensure your witnesses are credible and meet Texas requirements. They should not be beneficiaries in the will to avoid conflicts of interest.

Using Incorrect or Outdated Documents

Improper Execution

Relying on Old Versions

  • Using old or incorrect documents can create confusion. Always use the latest version of your will and ensure it is clearly marked as the most current.

Unclear Amendments

  • If you use a codicil to update your will, ensure it is clearly written and properly executed. Ambiguous or improperly executed codicils can lead to disputes and legal challenges.

Avoiding these common mistakes when updating your will can help ensure your estate plan remains effective and reflective of your current wishes. At Texas Probate Pros, our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to guide you through the process, providing expert advice and ensuring your will complies with Texas laws. By staying proactive and informed, you can safeguard your estate plan and provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.

Updating your will is not a task to be taken lightly. By avoiding these pitfalls and seeking professional guidance, you can ensure that your will accurately reflects your intentions and provides for your beneficiaries as you intend.

Frequently Asked Questions About Updating a Will in Texas

Updating your will is an important step in ensuring your estate plan remains accurate and effective. Here are some frequently asked questions about updating a will in Texas, along with their answers:

Can I update my will myself?

Yes, you can update your will yourself, but it’s generally recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney. DIY updates can lead to mistakes or legal issues that might render parts of your will invalid. An attorney can ensure your updates are legally sound and properly executed according to Texas laws.

How do I know if my Will is Legally Valid?

For a will to be legally valid in Texas, it must meet certain requirements:

  • It must be in writing.
  • The testator (the person making the will) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.
  • The will must be signed by the testator or by someone else at the testator’s direction and in their presence.
  • The will must be witnessed by at least two credible witnesses who are at least 14 years old and who sign the will in the presence of the testator.

An estate planning attorney can review your will to ensure it meets all these requirements.

What happens if I move to another state?

If you move to another state, it’s important to review and possibly update your will. Different states have different laws regarding wills and estate planning. Consulting with an estate planning attorney in your new state can help ensure your will remains valid and enforceable.

Can I make handwritten changes to my will?

Handwritten changes, also known as holographic amendments, can be problematic. In Texas, holographic wills (entirely handwritten and signed by the testator) are valid, but handwritten changes to a typewritten will might not be. It’s best to formally update your will through a codicil or by drafting a new will to ensure all changes are legally recognized.

What is a codicil, and when should I use one?

A codicil is a legal document that makes amendments to your existing will without replacing it entirely. It’s suitable for minor changes, such as updating beneficiary information or changing executor details. For significant changes, creating a new will is often a better option. A codicil must be executed with the same formalities as a will, including being signed and witnessed.

How often should I update my will?

It’s generally recommended to review and potentially update your will every 3-5 years or after major life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, significant changes in financial status, or the death of a beneficiary or executor. Regular updates ensure your will reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

Do I need to update my will if I acquire new assets?

Yes, acquiring significant new assets, such as property or investments, should prompt an update to your will. This ensures that your new assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your will accurately reflects your current financial situation.

How can I revoke my old will?

You can revoke your old will by:

  • Creating a new will that includes a revocation clause stating that all previous wills are revoked.
  • Physically destroying the old will, such as tearing, burning, or otherwise obliterating it, with the intent to revoke it.
  • Executing a written statement declaring the revocation of the old will, signed and witnessed in accordance with Texas law.

What if I don’t update my will regularly?

Failing to update your will regularly can lead to unintended consequences, such as outdated provisions that no longer reflect your wishes, the exclusion of new beneficiaries, or legal challenges during the probate process. Regular updates help ensure your estate plan remains accurate and effective.

Can I name a new executor in my updated will?

Yes, you can name a new executor in your updated will. It’s important to formally update your will to include the new executor and ensure they meet the legal requirements to serve in this role. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help ensure this change is properly executed. 

Keeping your will up-to-date is essential for maintaining an effective estate plan. At Texas Probate Pros, our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process of updating your will, ensuring it complies with Texas laws and accurately reflects your current wishes. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and keep your estate plan on track.

Conclusion

Keeping your will up-to-date is an essential part of ensuring your estate plan accurately reflects your current wishes and circumstances. Regular reviews and updates to your will help avoid potential legal issues, prevent misunderstandings among beneficiaries, and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your desires.

Updating your will after significant life events, changes in financial status, or shifts in relationships is crucial to maintaining a valid and effective estate plan. By avoiding common mistakes and understanding the role of an executor, you can navigate the complexities of estate planning with confidence.

At Texas Probate Pros, we specialize in providing personalized and professional estate planning services across Texas, including Austin, Round Rock, Waco, Belton, Temple, Killeen, San Antonio, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping you create and maintain an estate plan that meets your unique needs and goals.

Don’t wait to update your will. Ensure your estate plan is current and comprehensive by scheduling a consultation with Texas Probate Pros today. Our team of expert estate planning attorneys is here to guide you through the process, providing peace of mind and security for you and your loved ones.

Contact us now to schedule your consultation.

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