Wills in Texas

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Wills in Texas

In Texas, a valid will must follow additional formalities that are not required in other states. Specifically, a will must be 1) in writing, 2) signed by the testator, 3) signed by least two credible witnesses. Alternatively, you can create a valid holographic will by completing a document in your own handwriting with your own signature. Holographic wills do not require witnesses.

Executor Requirement

A valid will should designate an independent executor. An executor is the person appointed in a will to administer the estate of the decedent. The executor must see that the decedent’s assets are distributed according to the will, and that any debts left behind are paid off. In most states, the executor operates under close supervision of the probate court.

In Texas, however, the independent executor can usually act with little or no court supervision. They can pay off debts and dispose of the estate within the bounds of the law, without first seeking leave (i.e. permission) of the court. Of course, the courts will act when the executor is abusing his powers. The independent executor has a legal duty to act in the best interests of the estate.

Self-Proving Affidavits

Unlike some other states, Texas also has self-proving affidavits. Essentially, this is a written statement signed by the witnesses to the execution (i.e. signing) of the will, and then the statement is attached to the will. It affirms that the witnesses were present at the signing of the will, that the person signing the will is the person named in it, that he or she appears to be of sound mind, and is not acting under duress or undue influence.

The presence of these affidavits usually eliminates the need for these witnesses to appear in probate court to verify the authenticity of the will.

Consulting an Attorney

People often use estate attorneys to ensure that a will is properly drafted. Estate attorneys can advise you on the different types of wills, and can provide assurance that your estate shall be distributed according to your wishes (and not through intestate succession).

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Last Modified: 02-21-2014 12:37 PM PST

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