What Is a Legal Will in Texas?

By Michelle Hart
Make a written will to protect your assets.

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Wills are legal instruments designed to instruct your loved ones and the legal system on the disposition of your property and the care of any surviving dependents, following your death. In Texas, as in most states, wills must meet certain standards to be considered valid legal documents. In the absence of a will, a deceased person's property may fall under the jurisdiction of a probate court, where a judge will distribute the deceased person's property according to Texas law.

Purpose

A will exists to outline the wishes of a person in the event of his death. Most wills serve to dispose of property, money and other assets, and to designate caretakers for any surviving dependents of the will's maker. The maker of a Texas will can assign his property to any person, without limitation. If a person is assigned to care for a minor child, the will may instruct the caregiver on the management of the minor child's inheritance until the minor turns 18.

Legal Requirements

For a will to be considered valid in Texas, it must meet several requirements:

The maker of the will must either be at least 18 years old, married or serving in the military.

The maker must have the legal capacity to create the will, meaning she must be of sound mind and memory, capable of understanding the elements of the will and of making reasonable decisions.

A Texas will can be typewritten or handwritten. If handwritten, the entire will must be in the maker's handwriting.

Signatures & Witnesses

A Texas will must have witnesses and valid signatures as required by law.

The will must either be signed by the maker, or be signed in the maker's name by another person at the maker's instructions, in the maker's presence.

The will must by signed by two or more witnesses (age 14 or older) in the presence of the maker.

If a Last Will & Testament in the state of Texas meets these requirements, it is considered a valid legal document.

Oral Wills

Historically, oral wills (or "noncupative" wills) have also been used in Texas, but they have some limitations. To be recognized as a valid will in the state of Texas, an oral will must meet the following requirements:

The oral will must have been made prior to September 1, 2007.

The oral will must have been made while the maker was in his "last sickness" or on his deathbed.

The oral will must have been made at the maker's home, in a place the maker resided for at least 10 days prior to making the will, or at any location where the maker fell ill and died before returning home.

The value of the property disposed of in the will can not exceed $30.00, unless three or more witnesses were present at the time the oral will was made.

Please note that the time limit to file a will to probate court and have it deemed valid in Texas is four years. After September 7, 2011, oral wills will no longer be a probate issue in the state of Texas.

Changes/Modifications

A will should be amended any time the maker acquires a significant amount of new property, gets married or divorced or gains or loses an heir. Modifications are made using a document titled "Codicil to Modify Last Will & Testament," which revokes the original will and creates a new one under Texas probate law.

Revocation/Cancellation

A will can be revoked by codicil (as described above), by creation of a new will, by a written statement from the maker or by the maker destroying the original will. A written will cannot usually be revoked by creation of a new oral will unless the original written will is also destroyed.

About the Author

Michelle Hart is a business and success strategist with more than 15 years of experience in law and business. Hart enjoys travel, reading, writing fiction, productivity hacking and perfecting the art of risotto.

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