Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do I Need Estate Planning?
Creating a will or estate plan can be stressful and is easy to postpone to “another day”. However, having an estate plan is important for a number of reasons.
An estate plan:
- Is your final voice after your death….allowing YOU to decide where your property will go and in what manner. Otherwise, the courts (or lawsuits) can make those decisions for you.
- Can determine guardianship of your minor children.
- Navigates through complicated estate and tax laws and their affiliated strategies.
- Can plan for contingencies.
- Can minimize your taxes and cost of estate administration.
- Can coordinate your investments and employee benefits to align in the big picture.
- Makes it easier for your loved ones to settle your estate after your death.
- Can provide peace of mind that you will be taken care of in the future, in the event that you become ill or pass away.
Armstrong Law can help navigate complex estate laws and strategies, making the process simple and straightforward for you. Our attorneys can help look out for potential issues and contingencies that will help take out the guessing of planning ahead. Most people fall within the small to moderately-sized estate plan. We offer a wide range of options including simple wills, living trusts, creation of trusts, and probate administration.
Can I Just Write My Will Myself?
Texas does not require much before it will legally recognize a will — sign and date your will in the presence of two witnesses (who cannot be benefactors), and you’re good. You don’t even need to get it notarized (though that will speed up the probate process). From there, just keep it in a safe place.
Sounds simple, right? Well, signing the will is simple. But writing the will? That’s something else entirely. If you want anything beyond a simple “give X item to this person,” then writing the document yourself will quickly prove to be too complicated a procedure. A licensed attorney, on the other hand, knows the procedure like the back of his own hand. A licensed attorney can help you sort out a number of complex situations. For example:
- Large Estate— if your estate is large and you have many assets, it will be liable to high estate taxes. Thankfully, a lawyer knows how to minimize those taxes, passing the fullest amount of your estate on to your heirs.
- Small Business— businesses are complex, no matter the size. If you own (or partially-own) a small business, then you absolutely must consult with a lawyer regarding how to successfully pass it on to your heirs. Otherwise, your business may be poorly taken care of, thanks to some technicality.
- Special Conditions — maybe you want your inheritance passed on, but only under particular conditions (such as graduating college). This can be done, but requires more legal work than a layperson is capable of.
- Long Term Care — one ability of a will is to appoint guardianship for children. But if your child has special needs, a regular will can’t provide for that. You’ll need to consult a lawyer for that.
- Disinheriting a Spouse — probate law tends to heavily favor spouses, so if you need to cut a spouse off from your estate, you’ll need to consult with an attorney.
- Difficult to Contest — During the probate process, the court’s first task is to validate the will. During this stage, someone may try and contest the will, and argue you weren’t in your right state of mind when you signed it. Unfortunately, you won’t be around to defend yourself at this point. But attorneys know how to make wills difficult to contest, and can give you a preemptive strike in this particular battle.
If writing a will was as simple as “give X item to this person,” you could probably do it yourself. But the reality is that writing a will is usually more like putting in stitches than applying a band-aid. Probate is a complex process, and the law has a lot of angles to consider. If you have even the slightest doubt regarding how to write your own particular will, then get help from a licensed attorney. We know what to do.
702 San Antonio St.
Austin, Texas 78701
PO Box 41288
Austin, TX 78704