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What does Texas require for someone to draft a valid will?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Estate Planning

A Texas estate plan can be relatively complex. It might include an assortment of different documents, such as trusts and powers of attorney designations. Other times, people try to keep things as simple as possible. They may draft a will and nothing else.

Those trying to rush through the estate planning process as cheaply or quickly as possible could very easily make mistakes. If someone only has one document on record, then they need to ensure that it holds up under scrutiny if there are issues during probate proceedings. State statutes in Texas impose several crucial requirements on those attempting to draft a will.

What standards must someone typically meet if they want a will to guide the distribution of their property after they die?

A testator must have testamentary capacity

The most basic requirement, other than being an adult, to draft a will in Texas is testamentary capacity. That term refers to the ability of the testator to understand their circumstances and the implications of the documents that they draft. Family members sometimes bring challenges against Texas states by raising allegations that the testator lacked the necessary capacity to draft legally binding documents. There is a presumption in most cases that adults have the necessary capacity, and those seeking to challenge an estate plan based on the lack of capacity must have evidence supporting their claims.

There should be at least two witnesses

The value of assets included in someone’s estate gives others an incentive to engage in various types of misconduct. People might try to trick someone into signing documents under fraudulent pretexts or might coerce and manipulate someone into setting certain terms that are beneficial for them but not the testator. The requirement to have two witnesses who are age 14 or older sign the documents helps deter bad actors from manipulating the estate planning process. Those witnesses could also play an important role in validating the intent and capacity of the testator if conflicts arise after their passing.

Individuals who try to quickly draft estate documents using online services or downloaded templates may lack the necessary witnesses to ensure that the courts will ultimately uphold their will later. They could also potentially sign documents that do not conform to Texas requirements. As such, learning about Texas regulations before drafting a will can help increase the likelihood of creating an enforceable document.