Do We Need a Will in Texas? – Frequent Questions
Question: My husband and I have several bank accounts and some real estate. Do we need wills? We have heard that we should avoid the probate courts. We have three sons and we would like to leave our property equally to all three. How do we get the property out of our names and into our three sons’ names once we both pass away without having to go to the probate court?
Attorney Philip Hundl: First, having to go to a probate court in Texas is not the end of the world. The probate process is fairly simple and straightforward, if you have a will that is self-proved.
In your case, if you want to avoid probating a will, then make sure that your bank accounts are set up so that the accounts pass to your sons automatically after both of you have passed away. The types of accounts you should use are a joint account with rights of survivorship (JWROS) and/or an account with payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Be sure to review the bank account applications and signature cards so that the accounts are actually JWROS or POD accounts. Not all banks offer these types of account or a bank could make a mistake when setting up your accounts.
Regarding the real property or land, you and your husband have several options. You could convey the land to your sons equally now and reserve a life estate in the land so that you and your husband have the right to the use and benefit of the land during your lifetimes. Also, you and your husband could hire an attorney to prepare a revocable living trust. The land would be conveyed into the trust, and upon your deaths the land would be distributed to your sons equally.
If you have a question about estate planning or want more information about whether you need a will, please call our office for an appointment at 800-929-1725 or use the contact form to make an appointment. Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick serves clients from all over South Texas from offices in Wharton, El Campo and Richmond.