Can You Make a Will Yourself in Texas?

Mar 5, 2024 | Wills

Wills are one of the oldest and most widely-known estate planning documents out there. You’ve probably heard of them on TV, social media, YouTube, and even from family members.

Usually, creating a will involves hiring an estate planning attorney to draft and execute your documents. But you might wonder: Can I make my will myself?

There are plenty of reasons you may want to do so. Perhaps you don’t like discussing private family matters with others, or you’re looking for ways to save on legal fees. 

Generally, it’s discouraged to DIY your will.  It’s kind of a big deal. If you’re the kind of person willing to build their own lifeboat, having never attempted carpentry, or willing to conduct surgery on yourself without going to medical school, then it’s an option. 

 If you are of the belief that you should leave those kinds of projects to a professional, hire an attorney. 

Either way, it’s a question worth asking—and we’ll give you the answer in this blog post.

Everything you need to know about making your own will in Texas

So, can you make a will yourself in Texas? Yes, you can!

In Texas, you have two options for a DIY will: 

  • Holographic, or handwritten will: these wills are written by hand and do not require a signature in front of a notary or witnesses to be valid as long as the document meets all the necessary criteria. Holographic wills may be self-proved if the testator attaches an affidavit that states this is their last will.

  • Formal will: unlike holographic wills, formal wills should be: 
    • Typed
    • Notarized 
    • Witnessed 

DIY formal wills often rely on software to help generate templates, and the state of Texas also provides will forms

However, that doesn’t mean you can create a legally binding document just by scribbling down (or typing out) your wishes. The Texas Estates Code Chapter 251 outlines requirements for your will to be valid once filed in probate court.

Testator requirements

The author of a self-made will is known as the testator. There are several criteria to qualify as a testator under Texas law.

First, you must be sound of mind. This means that you:

  • Have the intent to write the will, which is shown by titling the document “The Last Will and Testament of [Your Name]”
  • Understand that what you’re writing is a will
  • Know that the will determines how your property gets distributed after you die
  • Know what property you own

In most cases, you also have to be at least 18 years old. You can be younger than 18 only if you’re married to or formerly or currently serve as a member or auxiliary of the U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. Maritime Service.

Elements to Include

To be considered valid under Texas Law, your will must state:

  • Who will act as the independent executor—the person you want to manage your property, assets, and debt throughout probate (this person can be a beneficiary)
  • The full legal names (including suffixes) of the beneficiaries who’ll receive the assets in the estate and their relationships to you
  • Instructions on how you want property and assets distributed
  • Percentages of property distributed for each beneficiary

When naming the independent executor, it’s beneficial to state they can serve without bond, meaning they aren’t required to pay the court for a bond to insure against the misuse or theft of your money.

There are also certain statements to include in your holographic will:

  • Opening line: This line should state your identity, state of mind, and the document’s purpose. You could write something like: “I, Jane Doe, of San Antonio, Texas, on 2024, am of sound mind. I am writing this holographic will to distribute my estate after my death.”
  • Prior will revocation: If this isn’t your first will, you must include a statement revoking all prior wills. For example, you could write: “I expressly revoke all prior wills. I invalidate them and mean for this document to have sole legal effect.” It’s best to destroy the previous wills to avoid confusion or mix-ups.
  • Residuary clause: This covers everything else you don’t specifically mention in the will. Such a clause may say: “As for the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, I want it to go to my brother, John Doe.”

Finally, write the date and your signature at the end of the document.

Best practices for self-made wills

Next, let’s look at some tips and tricks to make your self-made will the best it can be.

  • Writing: Consider writing your will in blue ink so it’s easy to tell what’s in the original if a copy is made.
  • Numbering pages: If your will has more than one page, you should number each page with the format “page # of #” for easy organization.
  • Packaging: You can put three staples across the top of your will to show that you didn’t add or remove any pages after signing it. It’s also a good idea to put your will in an envelope and seal it.
  • Safekeeping: Store your will in a safe place and let your independent executor know where it is. You can store it anywhere you’d like. But it’s best to avoid storing it in a safe deposit box so your family doesn’t have to worry about getting court approval to open the box after you die.

These tips aren’t requirements, but they can make finding it and executing it less complicated for your loved ones.

Other important things to know about wills in Texas

There are some other general laws regarding wills in Texas that can affect your DIY will.

Modifying your will

As a result of the RE Estate of Wyleck case, you can modify a will with a document called a codicil. A codicil to a will follows the same process as the original. If you are creating a holographic will, it should be written in your handwriting. 

For a formal will drafted by an attorney, the codicil has to be typed and signed by two witnesses. In either case, it should identify the will it’s modifying.

Community property

Texas is a community property state, meaning any assets you acquire during marriage belong to your spouse equally. When you die, they still own their half. Therefore, your will only covers the property that you own.

Trusts and bank accounts

A will doesn’t distribute assets that are placed in their own asset protection trust. In addition, several financial assets don’t go through probate, including (but not limited to):

  • Financial accounts like credit union or bank accounts
  • IRAs
  • Pension plans
  • Insurance policies like life insurance policies

They shouldn’t be included in your will since they go directly to the beneficiary instead. 

Not legal advice… and not recommended

We don’t advocate DIY will preparation because of our many experiences helping clients fix errors caused by loved ones who “did it themselves.”

This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. This article does not include an exhaustive list of all issues that may apply to you and your specific facts and circumstances. 

How an experienced estate planning attorney can help

While you don’t have to hire legal help to create your will, an experienced estate planning attorney like those at the law firm of Shann M. Chaudhry Esq., Attorney at Law PLLC, can be an invaluable resource for planning for the future. 

We can give you state-specific advice on different estate and trust options so you get the best tax benefits and asset protection. We’ll also help you fully understand which assets you can distribute through the will and which you need to place in a different structure.

And if navigating the requirements of a DIY will is too complicated or you’re worried about getting something wrong, we’re here to help you navigate the process. The empathetic team at SMC ESQ. PLLC cares deeply about helping our clients protect what matters most to them. 

Schedule an affordable consultation today to see how we can help you choose an estate plan that will protect your assets, take care of your loved ones, and fulfill your wishes for the future.

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