At the very least, many people, including legal practitioners, are aware of what a will is and its ability to dispose of property upon the death of the testator (the person who created the will). However, what is less well known are some issues that this blog will have more detailed individual posts about, including: When must a will be probated? Must a will be in a specific format or have "magic language"? Is disinheritance permitted in Texas? Why not a revocable living trust?
More globally, however, the importance of a will in today's blended multi-generational families with complex issues cannot be underscored enough. In fact, it is quite common for people to walk into an attorney's office (from the indigent to the wealthy) and say, "My loved one died not leaving a will. What happens now?" Each particular case will require a thorough review of the family history facts involved and all the generations it will concern. Further, issues of community property v. separate property and children outside of the marriage take a more simple probate into a more complex one. With a properly drafted and executed will, many of these issues can be avoided or addressed, because along with a properly drafted will, should come legal advice and counsel on the law of trusts and estates.
Therefore, the importance of a will is not just the document itself but the estate planning process that accompanies it. A properly drafted estate plan addresses many issues like disability, health concerns, charitable giving, estate taxes, management and disposition of property, and memorializing desires. A will should be one of the many things considered in a thoughtful and comprehensive estate plan.