Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Texas wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with you, the testator (the person making the will), to create valid Texas wills and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Texas last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Texas Last Will and Testament
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old, married, or serving in the armed forces.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions), not be forced or deceived to make the will, and have the intention to pass on property at death.
Signature: A Texas last will and testament must be signed by the testator or another person at his or her direction and in his or her presence.
Witnesses: A Texas last will and testament must be attested by two credible witnesses above the age of 14 and be signed by the witnesses in the presence of the testator.
Writing: A Texas last will and testament can be in writing, handwritten, or oral. Oral wills have limitations.
Beneficiaries: A Texas last will and testament may bequeath property to any person.
Other recognized will types:
Holographic Wills: A valid handwritten will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator and signed by him or her. Texas laws have specific requirements in order to recognize a valid handwritten will.
A will is a legal document which states how the testator's property is to be distributed at death. A valid will avoids many of the problems that may arise from dying without a will and allows a person to leave property to the persons he or she desires.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Texas wills form can be used to designate the individual(s) who will manage the property
You may designate the individual(s) who will care for minor children using our Texas wills form.
You may also set up a trust, a method by which property is held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary) using our Texas wills form.
Notable limitations of property distribution in wills:
With community property, a spouse retains only one-half of the community property to give to anyone because the other spouse owns the remaining half. If a will attempts to give all the community property away to one or more beneficiaries, the surviving spouse has to either accept whatever is specified in the will or to renounce the entire will and instead claim the one-half community share.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Texas will and testament can generally be modified when there are changes in the testator's heirs, property, or marital status. This can be accomplished with a document called a codicil to modify Texas will and testament or by revoking the will and then creating another one. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Texas probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A Texas will and testament can be revoked, by a subsequent will, codicil, or declaration in writing, adhering to the legal requirements of a will, or by the testator destroying or canceling the same, or causing it to be done in his presence.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Texas last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, and distribute property as designated in the Texas last will.
The validity of any handwritten or typewritten will must be proved in court and occur within 4 years after the death of the testator. A will that is not proved in court is denied probate. The testator's property then passes to his or her heirs through intestacy. After proving the validity of a Texas last will, the administration of the estate begins.
Texas law does not require estate taxes. Therefore, the testator's estate need only file an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form-706 for any required taxes.
It is extremely important to make a Texas will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die before you make a Texas will (or other valid will), you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Texas state laws.
In Texas, property is either separate or community. Separate property is owned before marriage or acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance. Community property is all property, other than separate property, which is obtained by either spouse during marriage. Texas intestacy laws determine the heirs, and dispose the property according to whether it is community or separate property.
If you make a Texas will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.