I have never met a client who says they want their Will to distribute only a part of their estate, and then they want the family to figure out the rest through four years of costly litigation. That is exactly what happened to a Texas family in a recent case before the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. The contested Will gave all the personal property to the decedent’s niece but was silent about the decedent’s real property.
The gaps in this Will led to litigation between the niece and the decedent’s children. The niece thought the real property was given to her along with the personal property; the children thought it passed to them through the Texas heirship law. The kids won. Even though a Will existed, it was incomplete in passing all of the assets, so a part of the estate passed intestate (as though the decedent died without a Will).
Most people want simplicity in the document that distributes their estate, but over-simplifying leads to gaps that create woeful complexity and cost at probate. Instead of just simplicity, the goal should be a balance of clear direction regarding your wishes, and court-tested language that aids the executor, beneficiaries, and others in implementing those wishes. You risk losing that balance when using a do-it-yourself (internet download) Will or rely on a hand-written Will. Turning to a qualified estate planner who takes the time to understand you, your family, and your assets will help you achieve the balance.
At Braun & Gresham, we want our clients to develop an estate plan that protects their assets during their lives, reflects their goals for passing on their assets, values, and legacy, and allows those goals to be realized when they die.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your own estate plan today, contact Margaret at (512) 894-5426.