Blogs :: Will Basics – What They Are and Why They Are Needed

Wills are a subject that people tend to avoid discussing but it is a critical part of your family’s future. Making your final wishes known and having a plan for your children will ensure your family will be protected the way you want it to be.

Why Have a Will

Dying without a Will in Texas subjects you to intestate succession laws which state that your assets (with some exceptions) will be distributed to your closest relatives. In some cases, this may not follow your wishes. It may be further complicated in situations of blended families with children from previous marriages or relationships. How assets were acquired (were they acquired during the marriage or were they owned prior to the marriage?) will determine how they are distributed.

Texas is also a Community Property state – What this means is that any property or assets that you have accumulated prior to getting married is personal property and any property that you have obtained during marriage is community property (i.e. You and your spouse own an equal percentage). An exception to this is your inherited assets during marriage or get a court settlement that is not marriage-related then these funds or assets are personal not community property.

Texas Intestate Succession

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Special Needs Families

Wills for Special Needs families are somewhat more complicated as you must consider how government funding like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid affect your child in the future. Should your child be receiving SSI and Medicaid now or will be receiving it in the future, there is currently a limit of $2000 (2020) on your child’s assets. Any assets such as bank accounts, property, life insurance policies, Savings Bonds, etc. that can be liquidated will count towards that $2000 asset limitation and could possibly jeopardize your child’s SSI and Medicaid. For this reason, we suggest creating a Supplemental Needs Trust (also known as a Special Needs Trust or Third-Party Trust) for assets that will come from a family member. For example, life insurance policies should list the Supplemental Needs Trust as the beneficiary or secondary beneficiary rather than having the child or adult with Special Needs as the direct beneficiary. Having a Supplemental Needs Trust can ensure quality of life for your child with Special Needs.

Additionally, while all families with minor children should list Guardians for their child(ren) should the parents pass away before their child(ren) reach the age of majority (18 in Texas), parents of children with Special Needs should list a successor Guardian for their adult child with Special Needs to designate someone you trust to care for your child when you are gone.

Blended Families

If you live in a blended family, having a Will is extremely important if you want your spouse’s children to inherit any of your estate.  Without naming them in a Will, they will not receive any of your personal property or any of your 50% of community property.

Summary

All families should consider comprehensive legal estate planning to assure your family is provided for and your assets are protected in the future. Legal plans are not to be set and never reviewed again. As your family changes, so should your legal plan. It’s important to periodically review your Will to make sure it still follows your wishes, especially if life changes. We can review your current Will or get started on a new Will should you not currently have one.

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