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Chadwick Boseman died without a Will. Should you?

Maybe you think you don’t need a Will; that having a Will doesn’t matter because your spouse or your children will inherit anyway. You could be wrong. And your mistake could be costly.

What if you do not leave a Will?

In Texas it costs much less to probate (prove) a well-drafted Will with a Self-Proving Affidavit. If you do not leave a Will, two people who will not inherit must testify as to who your spouse and children are and whether you were ever married to anyone else or had any other children, all of whom must inherit. The Court must appoint an independent attorney to investigate, at your estate’s expense.

Time is money.

In Central Texas your executor could get into court and be appointed, with authority over your estate, a mere two to three weeks after filing. If the court appoints an attorney to investigate and then must determine who your heirs are, it could be three months, maybe more, before someone has authority over your property. What will happen in the meantime? Who will pay the bills?

That delay is important if your family needs the money or if they need to forestall a foreclosure or cut off creditors to protect the family home, household goods, a car or other personal property.

Without a Will, you have no way to give someone legal authority to access your online accounts, whether bank accounts or social media. They might find your username or password. But using them without legal authority would be a federal crime.

Without a Will, you have no way to protect someone who is disabled or a minor.

With a Will

We all hope that we and our spouse will be over 65 when we pass. Our spouse is likely to then be disabled. Your Will can provide for any gift to a disabled person to pass to a special needs trust for her benefit, supplementing the miserly $60/month personal needs allowance she would receive in a nursing home.

Your Will can also provide for any gift to a minor to be held in trust, paying for education and support, but not ruining his life by giving him a huge sum of money on his 18th birthday. (If you have retirement accounts, these can be paid to a trust created by your Will, the saving thousands of dollars which must otherwise be spent for a court-created management trust.)

There are lots of reasons to have a Will. Naming who you want to leave things to is just the beginning.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.


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