By Lorie Burch, Owner & Founding Attorney of Burch Law
- Much of your estate may not even be controlled by your Will. Did you know that when you designate beneficiaries on assets such as life insurance, retirement, bank accounts, and investments that those beneficiaries supersede a Will? So while you think you are covering everything by filling out a “simple” form, you may not even be addressing the biggest chunks of your money. Worse yet, if you have minor children listed as a beneficiary, the financial institution will not consider your Will, instead the court will have to step in and appoint who controls the money and it will be given to your child at age 18…not typically the best age to make money decisions.
- The way your Will is signed is just as important as what it says. I am constantly amazed when I review Wills that were drafted through online programs and will kits that they aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on. Many are under the impression that so long as a legal document is notarized, it is valid. That is not the case for a Will in Texas. There are strict requirements when it comes to the signing, witnessing, and notarization for a Will to be valid. I even reviewed a Will where the individual and two witnesses all signed on different days! Guess what, that is not “witnessing” and that Will was NOT valid. Unfortunately, usually when you find out a Will wasn’t signed properly is once someone has passed away, so it is literally too late to fix it. And the court cannot take into consideration what the Will said. Only a validly signed Will can provide guidance as to who can carry out your wishes and how you want money and property distributed.
- What assurance do you have when you’re told that a bank, hospital, or other entity will not recognize your document? I tell my clients that there is the real world and the legal world, and they don’t always match. Sometimes certain entities such as banks or hospitals or even funeral homes will tell you that the document you are presenting is not valid. Perfect example is a Power of Attorney for financial matters. At least once a month, I hear a story where a bank won’t honor a power of attorney for various reasons. If you drafted that Power of Attorney on your own, what would you say? You’d probably walk away because you have no idea and you have no one to call. Now if you had an attorney prepare that document, you’d probably tell the bank “It must be valid and by the way, let’s get my attorney on the phone!” I have had to step in many times to correct misinformation. The peace of mind you have by going to attorney will ensure that your documents has met all legal requirements and you have someone on your side to make sure that your wishes are honored.