Wills & Probate

Our Expertise With Wills Protects You & Your Loved Ones

Creating Wills

We help you create a will to provide your loved ones with immediate access to bank accounts, savings accounts, life insurance, auto titles, and the ability to sell a home or other property if something happens to you. Included are documents to carry out your wishes for medical care and other important decisions, if you should become unable to make these decisions.

Watch our video and read a related article with tips for changing or creating wills to legally protect your 18-year-old child, your family, and yourself. 

Updating Wills

We’re here to update your will when life events happen including the birth or adoption of children, children reaching the age of 18 (adult in eyes of the law), divorce, death, new business situations, or simply changing your mind on how to distribute your property, cash, or stocks.

Probating Wills

We walk you through the process of probating a will—providing you and your family with legal rights to own or sell real estate such as an inherited home, land, automobile, or business. This process also transfers cash, stocks, and other assets to you or your family as rightful heirs. If you don’t probate a will, you may have problems proving you own inherited property and you may be denied access to cash in bank accounts and more.

Wills & Probate FAQs

What is a will in Texas?

A will is a document that controls the passage of your property upon your death. In Texas, there are two basic types of wills – (1) the attested or formal will, which is in writing and is witnessed (by two or more witnesses and signed by a notary) and (2) the holographic will, which is wholly in the testator’s handwriting (or typing) and signed by the testator. Generally, the most effective wills are the attested or formal wills. Self-proved wills also make the probate process less stressful on family members.

Do I need a will for myself or myself and my spouse?

Generally speaking, most people benefit from having a will. Having a valid will in place at your death can help make the administration and distribution of your estate easier for those who are left behind. Most of us are concerned (at least to some degree) about what happens to our property at our death and in whose hands our property ultimately falls. While a single will for two married people is an option, we recommend each of our clients have a will for his or her assets even if the wills are mirror images of each other.

I don’t have an estate to speak of, do I still need a will?

You do not know what your financial condition will be at your death or what property you will own at your death. Also, your family situation may make having a will crucial to your loved ones. For example, if you are married with a minor child, having a will can make all the difference for your survivors, even if you have few assets. On the other hand, if you have little property, are unmarried, with no children, with both parents alive, and you want all of your property to pass to your parents, you may not need a will. Your estate may file a lawsuit on behalf of your estate due to a wrongful death claim. These are just examples. We always recommend clients have a valid will in place.

I set up all of my assets so that they pass by beneficiary designation, or are payable on death to certain persons so I can avoid the hassle and expense of doing a will. Is this a good plan?

Maybe, but probably not. A plan like this may work in some situations, but in most cases it fails to cover many contingencies which may occur, with disastrous results. For example, if the person you designate on a beneficiary designation or signature card dies before you do and you do not change the designation, the property could go to someone you don't want to inherit from you. Also, if the person who ends up with the property is a minor or an incapacitated person, insurance companies, brokerage firms and banks will not pay proceeds to or transfer assets without a guardianship or trust. Inheritance may hurt this person’s ability to qualify for government benefits. A well-drafted will may contain a trust for minors and a special needs trust for incapacitated persons, but without that trust or guardianship becomes expensive and cumbersome. (Click here for more information about guardianships and here for special needs trusts.) There also are potential negative tax consequences of using only beneficiary designations or pay-on-death designations to pass property at your death. For example, if your estate is a taxable estate for federal estate tax purposes, a well-drafted will can provide for creation of a trust after your death to save taxes. If you do not have a will, your loved ones could end up paying estate tax which may have been avoided if you had a properly drafted will.

I have a blended family and want to make sure my assets are distributed fairly in my opinion. Can a will help accomplish this?

Yes. If you are concerned about making sure that some of your property goes to your children from a previous relationship in this situation, you can take certain steps in a will to help accomplish your goals. For example, you could make a gift of a certain amount of cash or a certain percentage of your estate to your children, outright or in trust at your death. You could also leave property in trust for the benefit of your spouse with what is left of the trust (the remainder of the trust) passing to your children at your spouse’s death. These are just two examples of steps you can take in this situation. However, this is very personal and the appropriate provisions to include in your will depend on your family dynamics and your estate planning objectives. 

How do I get a will? Should I see an attorney or use a form?

There are many estate planning products on the market today that represent to consumers that legal documents such as a will may be prepared on a home computer without the help of an attorney. In some cases, these products may work. However, many of these products are not state specific, and therefore, do not meet the specific requirements for the state in which the testator resides and, ultimately, where the will is offered for probate. (Even though the form may be "valid in all 50 states," it could fail to include provisions required by Texas law for low-cost, efficient administration of your estate.) The best way to go about doing a will is to contact an attorney in your area to assist you. Prior to meeting with an estate planning attorney, you should think about how you would like to leave your property at your death, and who you would like to designate to handle your estate after your death.

How much does a will cost?

This question is difficult to answer because the complexity (or lack thereof) of each individual’s situation will determine the amount of time that is necessary to prepare the will. Many estate planning attorneys bill hourly for their services while others may work on a flat-fee basis. When you hire an attorney to assist you in preparing a will, make sure that you fully understand the fee structure and that you are comfortable with the fee arrangement. If you have questions regarding the fee or the fee arrangement, you should always ask.

Why should I have a living trust as opposed to having a will?

A living trust is a useful estate planning tool that allows the user to arrange how some or all of their assets will be managed after their passing. A last will and testament may help achieve a similar goal, but a living trust does not need to go through complicated and potentially expensive probate procedures.

I want to avoid probate, is a living trust a better option for me?

A living trust can be used as an alternative to a will. In most cases, these trusts are more expensive and complicated that wills. Texas has relatively simple and inexpensive probate. For these reasons, most Texans can achieve their estate planning goals cheaper and simpler with a will. However, there are times when living trusts are appropriate and a better solution than a will. Click here for more information about living trusts, and be sure to ask your attorney to weigh the pros and cons for you.

What about out of state trust property?

A living trust is a good way of protecting out of state real property. If you place out of state real property in a living trust created in Texas, your family members can avoid probate in the state where the property is located. We always recommend exploring this option when you or your family own property in a state other than Texas.

What is community property?

In a community property jurisdiction, most property acquired during the marriage (except for gifts or inheritances) — the community property — is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, annulment, or death. Joint ownership is automatically presumed by law in the absence of specific evidence that would point to a contrary conclusion for a particular piece of property.

If you have community property, then a joint living trust for married or domestic couples may be appropriate; otherwise, you are usually better off having individual living trusts. If you want to proceed with a joint living trust, you should review all state law related to joint revocable trusts and property transfer considerations in your state of residence. In addition to being a community property or a non-community property state, your state may have other specific considerations related to creation of joint revocable trusts.