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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Where There’s a Will, Is There Always a Way?

Posted in *Way Out - Advice, Family Issues, Money

After their respective divorces Anita Will married Shelby A. Reck in Oklahoma. At the time each had a child and an Oklahoma home from their former marriages. Following the blissful event each adopted the other’s child, they moved to Texas, bought a house in Shelby’s name and had a baby. Before he died last year Shelby used an internet site to prepare his will in which he gave all of his assets to his Oklahoma child and failed to mention Anita’s child, their Texas child or Anita. Can Shelby’s wishes in his Last Will and Testament be honored?

While the predictable answer is “it depends,” the likely answer is “Probably Not.” Under some limited circumstances internet sites like LegalZoom.com might be sufficient. Even assuming that Shelby satisfied internet site checklists of the legal formalities of age, capacity, signature, witnesses, writing and beneficiaries, probating a will consistent with the intended distribution of personal assets becomes complicated by Texas community property issues, children (both biological and adopted), ownership of real property out of state and perhaps by prior marriages.

If you are looking to do your own will, the internet is chock full of sites, including LegalZoom.com and a plethora of others. Although you would expect for lawyers to say it’s a bad idea, finding the lawyer sites that tell you why internet wills are a bad idea are few. I did find one lawyer on Practice Blawg who claimed to purchase a “Standard Will” and the troubles he encountered. Even if you use a “Standard Will” and it works for your circumstances, it is equally likely that, for those limited circumstances, there are even better solutions that present fewer complications and headaches.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

You can legally write your own will. However, you need to know your state’s legal requirements. Create your own will only if family issues, finances and legal matters are not complicated. Livestrong Cancer Navigation Services recommends that you consider writing your own will only if you:

  • Have limited assets registered in your name;
  • Are unmarried and have no children;
  • Want to leave your assets to only one or two people; and
  • Have no major tax concerns to consider.

Another criteria for Texans would be to own real property only in the state of Texas. An attorney who specializes in estate planning will know what Texas law requires. Tax attorneys, accountants and certified financial planners can also help with estate planning. If a family member challenges your will, it could be declared as not valid. If this happens, Texas might not follow your intentions. Property could then be distributed according to Texas probate laws. A will prepared by an attorney is more likely to withstand legal challenges.