What does a will do?
It determines who receives your property upon your death. It can also solve or avoid costly court supervision of the distribution of your estate and of a guardianship to protect the rights of your minor children.
What happens if you die without a will?
Your property will be disposed of according to provisions of the Texas Probate Code. Of course, this may mean that your wishes may not be met.
Is a Guardianship required if you leave children and no will?
Generally, if you are survived by your spouse and your children, and you have no will, all of your community property goes to your spouse-BUT, this only happens if all your children came from the marriage of you and your surviving spouse. If you have children from another marriage, then half of your community property goes to your children from all marriages, and half goes to your surviving spouse.
In the second case, if the children are minors, the court will probably require a supervised guardianship for your children for their inheritance, even if their other parent is still living. The guardian would take charge of the property, and have to get probate court approval for most transactions. This burdensome, time-consuming process is avoided with a proper will naming a guardian for the inheriting minors from your previous marriage. You do need a provision that provides for a guardian in the event something happens to both you and your spouse simultaneously. If this occurs, then the court again would intervene and decide who gets custody of your children.
What is a "living will"?
This is a legal document, which indicates to a medical provider that you do not want extraordinary measures taken to sustain your life. This typically is done when a patient is brain dead or existing solely on a life support system without any real hope of recovery or quality of life.
Are there other instruments I should consider signing in conjunction with my will?
Yes. In a Health Care Power of Attorney you can appoint a trusted individual to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make your own medical decisions. Also, if you plan on going out of the country for an extended period of time, or have some other need to allow another person to make business, financial, and other decisions on your behalf, then you may wish to sign a General Power of Attorney.