If you’re like most Texans, your will is securely tucked away in a filing cabinet or drawer somewhere. This is the sort of task that most people will complete and then forget about. However, life is full of changes, and a savvy estate planner knows that their situation and preferences can change over time, necessitating a will update.
This couldn’t be truer than in the case of a change in marital status. When you are wrapped up in the bliss of marriage or the emotional turmoil of divorce, your will is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you don’t update your will in accordance with your marital status, your assets might be distributed in an unintended way upon your death. Your property might even go to an ex-spouse!
Having an outdated will also inflicts unnecessary stress on your family. If your will is out of date when you die, your surviving family members may be forced to contest the will in order to have a chance of receiving your property. This is a terrible burden on your loved ones during a time when they are also grieving.
After you tie the knot, you must revise your will to include your new spouse as a beneficiary. You will also want to add or remove any property that was gained, lost, or consolidated as a result of the marriage.
Does your partner have kids from a previous marriage? You might consider writing your stepchildren into your will as well. Or, you may want to specifically exclude your stepchildren.
Revising your will should be one of the first things you do after your divorce. After all, you probably drafted your will with your ex, naming him or her your beneficiary and possibly also your executor. Although Texas law will normally treat your ex-spouse as having predeceased you, it is still important to ensure that the alternate beneficiaries and executors named match your current wishes.
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Although you may not wish for your ex-spouse to assume guardianship of your children after you die, Texas courts will typically grant child custody to the other parent unless they are unfit. That said, you should still review your appointment of a guardian in your will. This person will raise your children in the event that neither you nor your ex-spouse are able to care for them.
You should also consider updating your will if you have an adult child who is going through a divorce. You may not want your assets going to their ex, either. A skilled estate attorney can help you ensure that your beneficiaries’ inheritances are protected from divorce and creditors.
Remarriage presents a particularly sticky aspect of estate planning. You may wish, for instance, to distribute some of your estate to your children from your previous marriage, and some to your current spouse. Careful estate planning will make sure that the appropriate people get their share.
If you have children from different relationships, it might make sense to designate different guardians for different children, depending on who they are closest to.
The Internet is full of do-it-yourself will websites. They seem straightforward enough, so why not choose the cheapest option and DIY your will? Straightforward as it may seem, a will is a legally binding document and must be crafted with care.
In the state of Texas, a will may be deemed invalid if it does not comply with specific legal requirements. In these cases, the estate will be distributed as though there were no will at all, with no consideration whatsoever given to your wishes.
To read about one man’s tragic $5,000,000 mistake, look no further than the Irving Duke case. In writing his own will, Irving Duke neglected to provide for a situation where he outlived his wife. Because his will was incomplete, his estranged nephews inherited his estate. We will never know what Irving Duke’s wishes truly were.
With decades of combined experience in providing expert legal assistance, the attorneys at Romano & Sumner have the expertise to handle all sorts of estate and will matters. Navigating the complex process of estate planning doesn’t have to be difficult. We’ll help you cover all your bases and ensure your property is protected. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC