Question 1: Who should have a Will?
Answer: Every adult in the United States should have a well-drafted Will. Wills not only lay out the disposition of someone’s assets at death, but they also can provide guardians for minor children, address debts, etc. While some people think that a Will is something that should only be used when someone has large amounts of assets, this myth is not true.
Question 2: What happens if I die without a Will?
Answer: If someone dies without a Will in Texas, then the Probate Code lays out the division of the assets. In general, those assets will be divided between the Decedent’s spouse and children, but if there is no spouse or child, then the assets will be divided among the Decedent’s parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.
Question 3: Is my family responsible for paying my debts when I die?
Answer: No. At death, the debts owed by the Decedent can only be satisfied by the assets that they owned at the time of death. Other family members and friends are not liable to pay the debts, unless they signed some agreement with the creditor agreeing to pay the debt. If the Decedent’s assets are not sufficient to pay all of the debts, the creditors will be forced to write off the remaining debts.
Question 4: Can I choose who is responsible for handling my affairs?
Answer: Yes. Under a Will, you have the opportunity to name your executor, who is the person who will be responsible for collecting and identifying your assets, paying off your debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the people you have named under your Will.
Question 5: Can I leave a gift for my pet?
Answer: Until recently, the law did not allow you to leave a gift in a Will for a pet. However, recent changes now allow someone to create a Trust to provide a continuing benefit for their favorite family pet.
Question 6: Can I just use a form from the Internet or an Office Supply store?
Answer: Ford+Bergner strongly discourages clients from using forms for creating a Will. In most cases, these forms are not created using Texas law, even though many will say that they are. Rather, they use laws applicable to the majority of states in the United States. Texas has very specific laws which most other states do not. By using a form from the internet, you run the risk of having an invalidated Will because the form you have chosen does not comply to Texas laws.
Question 7: Where should I keep the original of my Will?
Answer: The original should be kept at home with your important papers or in a safe-deposit box in a bank. Regardless of where you choose to keep it, you should be sure to alert your family members as to the location. If you choose to keep it in the bank, make sure that someone has access to the safe-deposit box so that they can retrieve the Will after your death.