Wills and other incapacity documents are necessary for everyone: grandparents, parents with young children, single adults. If you want to have a say in what happens to your things when you die or, more importantly, what happens to you when you can’t make your own decisions, drafting your will and other incapacity documents is vital. Once they’re written, they need to be updated periodically. When?
1. You’re from out of state and have moved to Texas.
Welcome to Texas! It is like a whole ‘nother country, right? In Texas, your will needs to be written, signed by you, witnessed by two people with nothing to gain from your death, and all must be notarized. Not every state requires those items. Also, there are particular statements that the courts require in order to have accessible the simpler probate tools. Texas courts have procedures for probating “foreign” (out-of-state or out-of-country) wills, but they must still meet Texas’s laws for validity in order to be used. To ensure the simplest options for your family, write a will each time you move to another state.
2. Beneficiaries or named agents need to be updated.
Life is full of changes. Naming your brother as executor may be best when your children are young, but as your kids grow up and start families of their own, one of them may be a better choice. If people you named as executor in your will, as agent in your powers of attorney, or as beneficiaries of a gift, have moved out of your life, run into some criminal trouble, or have died, it is time to update your documents.
3. You’ve gotten married or divorced.
A change in marital status means it’s time to update your will. Giving or taking away gifts to your spouse or ex-spouse is critical though Texas law does not permit ex-spouses from inheriting or serving as executor (unless you confirm the gift after the marriage ends), but you are wise to make your documents reflect your current situation. It’s a common misconception that all your community property goes to your current spouse after you die. Not so in second marriages when there are other children.
4. You’ve had a child.
Welcoming a new person into your family is exciting and stressful; it seems no matter what you do, some expert is there to tell you how wrong you are. Planning for your children’s care after your death—especially when they are minors—by naming a trustee and guardian is just good parenting and no one can dispute that.
5. Special needs have arisen.
Your child has been diagnosed with a special need or disability that will make life as an adult a bit harder to negotiate. Or your parent or sibling has developed a chronic disease. You can create a special needs trust or write your will in a way that will allow you to give your family member financial help without jeopardizing their eligibility to receive government assistance. Careful planning will make sure that your generosity is of maximum benefit.