There is a common misconception that if you die without a will, your personal belongings will pass to your next of kin automatically. In reality, with or without a will, the probate courts will determine how to distribute your assets, which may or may not be consistent with your true wishes. Avoiding probate in The Woodlands requires you to meet with a will attorney and specify how your possessions should be divided.
Ensure belongings go to beneficiaries
Wills ensure that certain belongings go to desired beneficiaries. Every probate court will review the will for validity and actually having a will, rather than an intestate estate, will speed up the probate process. In meeting with a will attorney, you can also outline how you would like certain assets to be used following your death. For example, you can bequeath a car to a family member and express your wishes that he sell it to support his education. Even though this stipulation isn’t binding, the will allows you to convey your final wishes in giving assets to your beneficiaries.
Limit family disputes
Courts only allow contesting a will in very limited circumstances. Usually, this occurs when there is evidence the will is not legitimate because the person making the will was not of sound mind. By drafting a will, you can help ease tension among family members in dividing your assets. Your will attorney can help you use specific language to ensure there is no doubt or confusion as to how you would like your assets divided following death.
Quantify your assets
If you haven’t drafted a will, a probate attorney may send inquiries to local banks and financial institutions to assess your financial situation. Your family members may also have to produce financial paperwork, including brokerage statements, government bonds and stock certificates. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure all of your assets exist and can be divided equitably. Creating a will helps avoid this step because you have formally outlined your assets and provided details of their value. You can also include a contingency clause assigning a beneficiary to any assets that you don’t specifically include in your will.