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Wills and estate planning

Estate planning is important for people in Texas and elsewhere as a way of providing for the protection and eventual disposition of their assets. One of the simplest estate planning tools is a will. A few basic facts about wills can help one understand their need and purpose.

A will is the foundation of estate planning. Putting off making one can put a decedent's family in a difficult position. If a person has died before making a will the heirs will then need to apply to a court for a succession certificate, which most financial institutions will require in order to release any funds of the decedent to the family members. When a person does have a will, the estate instead goes through the probate process which determines the validity of the will and thus its provisions for distributions.

In order to be valid, a will must be made by a person who is above legal age and in sound mental capacity. It must be signed by the person making it and witnessed by two adults. The maker must understand the information in the will and the distribution provisions it contains. A will need not be complex, although personal or family circumstances may require something more than a simple instrument. A living will can be prepared to cover types of health-related mandates, for example, directing a physician to discontinue life support measures.

A person who is interested in having a will prepared may wish to speak with an attorney who is experienced in elder law and estate planning. The attorney may be able to help the client in such preparation, and may also be able to suggest additional planning documents that may be appropriate to the client's particular situation.

Source: Money Control CNBC, "Four important facts of estate planning in retirement", Nitin Vyakaranam, October 09, 2013

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