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It’s never easy to talk or think about, but making plans to ensure your estate is in order upon your death is one of the best moves you can make in the present.

To this end, a last will and testament can prove helpful in determining how your assets are handled when that time comes.

Though the benefits of preparing this documentation are clear, the reality is that 60% of Americans lack estate-planning documents such as a will. The top reason? They “haven’t gotten around to it.”

Today, we’re outlining five key things to know when it comes to getting your will together. Knowing these, it should be a little easier to make that first move toward securing your — and your family’s — peace of mind.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

1. Last Will and Testament Defined

In short, a Last Will and Testament is a set of legal documents that define what happens to your property when you die.

You’ll determine who’s in charge of handling and settling your estate, if you want a Trust, and who will become the guardians of your children, should you die while they are still minors.

2. Age Requirements

Each state has its own regulations when it comes to how old you must be before you can prepare a Last Will and Testament .

In most cases, you’ll need to be at least 18, though exceptions are sometimes made for active military personnel and other special considerations, including marriage or legal emancipation.

Whether you’re 18 or 98, you’ll be required to prove that you’re in “sound mind” when you begin the process. You should be able to verify that you know:

  • What a will is
  • That you’re making one
  • How you’re related to those included in the will
  • The details surrounding your property (what and how much you own, how your resources will be distributed)

3. How to Make One

A valid Last Will and Testament complies with the legal regulations of your state of primary residence. Here is an overview of what Texas requires.

A qualified estate planning attorney can provide you with the resources and services you need to complete the process.

The final product should be one that not only meets your personal requirements, but that is legally sound as well. A Will created without the assistance of a legal professional can end up causing more confusion and complexity in the long term.

4. Making Changes

There are two ways you can make changes to your Will.

First, you can change only certain portions of your Will by creating an amendment, or codicil, to it. The codicil only changes a portion of the document, leaving all other provisions in place.

Or, you can also opt to create a totally new Will after formally revoking your old Will.

Revisions and re-dos must be performed with the same legal steps as you followed when creating your original Will. You’ll still need to meet with a lawyer, sign and date the documents, and do so in the presence of witnesses.

5. Dying Without a Will

If you die before you prepare a will, you are referred to as dying “intestate.”

If this happens, your state will take specific measures to distribute your probate property and settle your estate. In Texas, your property division will be determined by the rules of Intestacy (see here for more information on this).

This can be a lengthy and complicated process. To ensure your property is handled the way that you want it to be at the time of your death, it’s important to prepare the documents now and have your voice heard.

Need an Estate Planning Attorney? Start Here!

If you’re ready to begin preparing your will and estate plan, we’d love to help.

Our professional team will walk you through every step of the process, helping you understand and complete all legal documents, as well as make important decisions such as power of attorney.

Feel free to contact us to get started and put your future back in your hands!