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Understanding Wills And Codicils In Texas: Frequently Asked Questions

Wills and codicils are routinely at the foundation of an effective estate plan. However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding these legal tools.

At The Goodson Firm, P.C.. in Tyler, Texas, I strive to bring clarity by informing clients about the capabilities and limitations of each estate planning document. I am attorney Leigh Hunt Goodson, and I can help you draft a will, codicil or other estate planning tools to meet your needs. Read on for answers to common questions about these core tools.

What is a will?

A will is a legally binding document that establishes your wishes in the event of your death. Some of its key functions include:

  • Identifying your family members, assets and debts
  • Appointing an executor to manage your estate
  • Directing how you want your property divided and to whom
  • Disinheriting any family members you do not want to benefit from your estate
  • Nominating a guardian for your minor children

If you pass away without a will, the court will have to make those determinations for you through a lengthy and often-burdensome process called probate.

What is a codicil?

A codicil is a way to amend or update an existing will. It’s an important tool for making minor changes and clarifications without needing to redraft your entire will.

What is a living will?

In Texas, a living will is a tool for expressing your wishes regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event that you become incapacitated due to an injury or illness. You can also use a medical power of attorney to appoint a trusted loved one to make medical decisions on your behalf.

What makes a will or codicil valid?

Texas law establishes several requirements that must be met in order for a will or codicil to be valid. Chief among them is the requirement that the person making the will (or testator) has the mental capacity to do so. Both documents must also comply with certain formalities regarding signatures and witnesses. By working with a lawyer, you can ensure that your will or codicil is fully compliant with the law and have confidence that your wishes will be honored.

When should I revise my will?

With any big life change comes the opportunity to revisit your will. This is particularly true of transitions such as:

  • The birth of a child
  • The death of a family member
  • Divorce or remarriage
  • A child reaching adulthood
  • A child who is born with or develops special needs
  • Changes in your property

While there is no set timeframe for redrafting your will, if it’s been many years or decades since you touched it, you might want to consider reviewing it with an attorney to determine if updates need to be made.

When should I pursue a codicil versus a new will?

In general, codicils are preferable for minor changes to an existing will – for example, changing the disposition of a single piece of property. If the changes are more extensive, it might make sense to revisit the entire will. A lawyer can advise you on the pros and cons of each approach, and the best approach for your situation.

Get Answers To More Of Your Questions

If you have estate planning questions, I am happy to work with you to provide answers specific to your circumstances. Reach out today by calling 903-630-9174 or sending me an email. Based in Tyler, I have several offices to conveniently serve clients throughout the Dallas metroplex.