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There are usually very good reasons to have a Will.  You can know that your wishes will be followed.  You can know that settling your affairs will cost less money and take less time. But sometimes it may not make a difference.

You do NOT need a will

If your only debt is a mortgage on your homestead and you leave no more than $60,000 in personal possessions and household goods and no more than $75,000 in other assets, such as a bank account, all your heirs and two people who will not inherit can testify who your heirs are must agree to pay your debts and divide what remains according to the Texas Law of Descent and Distribution in an Affidavit of Small Estate. If you have a home, a Small Estate Affidavit can only pass it to your spouse.

If you only leave a home and leave it to your spouse or a minor child or a disabled adult child or your home is exempt from the Texas Medicaid Estate Recovery Program for some other reason, your heirs and two people who will not inherit can testify to who your heirs are in an Affidavit of Heirship. Using an Affidavit of Heirship is relying on the title company’s insurance policy. A Court will treat the Affidavit of Heirship as evidence but not as conclusive proof.

If you only leave real property deeded to someone in a deed which becomes effective on your death, such as a “Lady Bird” Deed or Transfer on Death Deed, and all your other assets are pay-on-death or transfer-on-death, have a named beneficiary or are held with your spouse “Joint with Right of Survivorship” and the people named survive you.

If your estate consists only of financial instruments held pay-on-death, transfer-on-death, have a named beneficiary or are held with your spouse jointly with the right of survivorship and the people named survive you.

If you do not mind leaving your heirs the expense of filing an Application for Determination of Heirship.

You DO need a will

If you have real or personal property — including a community property interest — and your estate does not fall under one of the categories above.

If you want to choose who settles your affairs.

If you want to choose who receives specific property or a specific percentage of all or part of your property.

If there are children not born to or adopted by both you and your current spouse.

If you have created a trust which is to be partly or fully funded when you die.

If you have an heir or want to name a beneficiary who sometimes lives in or may move to a state or country with an inheritance tax.

If you have property in a state or country with an estate or inheritance tax (and should hold that in a trust).

If you want to avoid the expense and time involved in settling your estate using an Application for Determination of Heirship and Issuance of Letters of Adminstration.

Whether or not you have a Will

Your debts must be paid.

Debts owed you must be collected.

Your property must be distributed.

It’s never too early to plan for your future.

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