When you make a will, you want your wishes to be carried out as you have specified. Before your family can receive any distributions from your estate, the probate court will make sure that your will is valid. If any of your family members disagree with the will presented to the probate court, they can challenge its validity. That’s why it’s essential to properly draft and execute your will when you are in good health and of sound mind.
When preparing your will, it’s a good idea to research what invalidates a will in Texas. The best way to understand how a will can be invalidated in Texas is to talk to an attorney who helps people plan their estates. The attorneys at the Offices of Robbins Estate Law, PLLC can help you manage your Texas estate planning so your family will be cared for according to your wishes. Contact us today.
What Is a Texas Will?
When you die, your property goes into your estate, which must pass to your heirs or to the beneficiaries you have named in your will. Your estate includes real property, like land and oil interests, and personal property, like household furnishings and vehicles. If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to Texas’s law of intestate succession. Typically, that means your spouse and children will receive your estate. If you want to distribute your property in a different way, you must have a valid will.
What Invalidates a Will in Texas?
Under the Texas Estates Code, anybody with an interest in an estate can challenge the will’s validity. An interested person may be an heir, beneficiary, spouse, creditor, or anyone else with a property right in or a claim against an estate. The person challenging the will must show why they believe it is invalid. The legal grounds for challenging a will include:
- You didn’t execute the will in accordance with the law;
- You lacked the testamentary capacity to execute a valid will;
- A third party forced you to write the will by exerting undue influence on you;
- The will was a forgery, or someone fraudulently induced you to sign it; or
- You executed more than one will, which likely means you wrote a new will without properly revoking the prior one.
An interested party may want to challenge a will presented for probate because that will grants them less property than they would get if either there was no will or if a previous will is enforceable. If they want to contest a will in Texas, they must do so within two years of its admission to probate. If no one challenges the will within that time, the court will enforce it as valid.
How To Properly Execute a Will in Texas
Texas acknowledges typewritten (formal) and handwritten (holographic) wills. For a typewritten will to be valid, it must be in writing, signed, and attested by two witnesses. The witnesses should be impartial, meaning the will does not grant them property. The witnesses will have to testify to the will’s validity for the probate court unless they sign a self-proving affidavit.
For a handwritten will to be valid, the entire thing must be in your handwriting and include your signature.
What Is Testamentary Capacity?
For a will to be valid, you must have a sound understanding of what you are doing when you sign the document. You should be able to comprehend the nature and value of your assets, understand that you are making a will, and understand the legal effect of executing your will. Families might contest a will due to a lack of testamentary capacity if their loved one made or changed their will while suffering from dementia or another mental incapacity.
What Is Undue Influence?
Undue influence occurs when someone pressures a person to create or change a will. People who are elderly, ill, or frail may be particularly susceptible to undue influence by someone in a position to exert such influence. Challenges over undue influence often occur when someone revises their will to disinherit their children and devises all of their assets to a caretaker.
What Happens If My Texas Will Is Invalid?
If the court determines your will is invalid, it will disregard any instructions in the invalid will. In that case, the court will order your estate to be distributed following the state’s law of intestate succession. The best way to ensure the court validates your will is to work with an estate planning attorney.
The attorneys at Robbins Estate Law have been helping Texans plan their estates since 2017. We have experience drafting valid wills, navigating probate, and helping our clients protect their assets. Whether you have a large or small estate, you deserve to have a carefully planned, legally enforceable estate plan. Contact our asset protection attorney in Texas today to find out how we can help you plan for your family’s future.