Wills and TrustsYou have labored for a lifetime to earn, save, and provide for your family. It is only natural that you would be concerned about passing down the wealth you have worked so hard to build. The grieving process for your family should not be further burdened with worrying about which large assets, such as a property, should go to which living heir.

Passing down wealth strategically requires one or more legal documents. For families, the choice comes down to the most effective way to accomplish their individual goals. The crucial thing is to see a wills and trust attorney now to talk through your options.

No matter how you choose to handle the transfer of your assets, you should have something in place before you are no longer able to execute a valid will—or any legal instrument for that matter. Texas law requires a person to have “testamentary capacity” in order to execute a will, trust, or any legally binding document. This means you must have the mental ability to understand what your assets are, who the people you are naming in your will are trust are, and how and/or why they will receive them.


Your Last Will and Testament – most commonly referred to as a will – is the foundation of your estate plan. The two types of wills recognized in Texas are attested wills and holographic wills. Attested wills included a typed legal document generally drafted by a lawyer and require two people to witness the signing of the document. Our attorneys only prepare attested wills in order to ensure all legal requirements are met and to ensure the validity of the document in probate court.

Holographic wills, however, are completely handwritten. They must be signed by the person writing the will (referred to as the testator), but do not require signatures of witnesses. Because a holographic will is not drafted by an attorney, the provisions and details included may not be in compliance with Texas law. Holographic wills are more easily contested, and often require additional steps in probate court to prove the validity.

A will allows you to control where your assets go after your death. You can direct how your cash, property, and prized possessions are distributed. If you have a business, you can name who will receive assets from the business and when they receive them. You can also choose not to leave anything to an individual and give all of your assets to a charitable cause of your choice. Wills provide a great amount of flexibility by allowing you to

A will can not only distribute assets, but can also outline the final wishes of the testator, such as who is assigned as guardian of any surviving dependents. It also includes appointing an executor of your estate. This is the person who will be in charge of paying off any creditors and distributing the assets of your estate upon your death. An executor should be someone you trust and who has the ability to deal with finances and the legal process, as they will be involved in the probate court process of settling your estate.

If you die without a will in Texas, a probate court will appoint an administrator to serve in the same capacity as an executor. The Texas Estate Code also has specific rules outlining how your assets are divided based on familial relationships. Dying without a will means all of your assets will be distributed according to Texas law with no regard to your wishes. This is why it’s so important to prepare in advance, and to consult with a Texas estate planning attorney.

Living Trust vs Will

A living trust is often utilized as a major component of an estate plan in conjunction with a will. Having both a will and trust set up in part of your estate planning only helps solidify your wishes and asset distribution. Each plays a distinct role in your overall estate plan.

A living trust is called that because it is formed while you are still alive. The assets included in the living trust would be managed by a trustee. That trustee could even be you, allowing you to maintain control over your assets. Assets in a living trust go directly to the designated trust beneficiaries upon death without the need to through the probate process.

Wills are different from living trusts because they require a probate proceeding after someone’s death in order to execute the estate and distribute assets to the person or persons indicated in the will. Even if you set up a living trust, however, your estate plan should still include a will in order to ensure all assets are covered and all elements of your estate are in order. Attorneys familiar with wills and trusts can help an individual or family decide what is best course for them.

In order to decide if your estate could benefit from a living trust, you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney and consider your own legal situation. You should consider the following:

  • The age and capacity of your heirs and whether you may want controls over how and when they inherit and spend assets
  • The complexity of your estate (more complex estates may benefit from a living trust)
  • Whether you need tax advantages that certain types of trusts provide
  • The value of your assets
  • Whether there are advantages to avoiding the probate process

The important things are that you think about these issues ahead of time and ensure your choices are correctly executed.

Attorneys for Trusts and Wills in Houston TX

Passing down your property is one of the most important parts of a comprehensive estate plan. Before you begin work on your estate plan, you should consult with an experienced attorney to consider your options. There are numerous directions you can take, each with its own pros and cons.

In addition, you need to be certain that all the documents included in your estate plan are legally correct and comply with the Texas Estates Code. Mistakes or errors could complicate the probate process, delay the distribution of assets, and even potentially invalidate the will entirely.

The attorneys at Nikki Davis Law will work with you to review your particular situation and advise you of the options that best suit your particular needs. We will help you put together a comprehensive plan and execute the documents to ensure your estate plan works seamlessly when you need it.

What are the benefits of a living trust?

A living trust provides your family with peace of mind by allowing for a seamless transfer of your assets to your loved ones. A living trust allows you greater control of your assets after death by potentially placing terms and conditions on how and when your beneficiaries have access to your assets. Trusts can also allow for certain assets to avoid the probate process completely, alleviating delays in the transfer of assets and court costs.

What are the advantages of a trust over a will?

While a will is a basic document that directs how assets should be distributed, a trust can include many more conditions and stipulations. Trusts can be beneficial when an estate is more complicated, or additional measures need to be taken outside of just the straightforward distribution of assets. There are many types of trusts, each with a specific purpose in mind. For instance, you can establish a trust to take care of minors or someone with disabilities when you are no longer here. A trust can also take assets out of your name when you are trying to qualify for Medicaid coverage to pay for long-term care. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate your options and determine if a trust will be beneficial for you.

Who needs a trust instead of a will?

Families that want a smoother process and to distribute estate more quickly and with predictability should consider establishing a living trust now to save difficulties in the future.

What are the requirements for a valid will in Texas?

For a will to be valid in Texas, the testator (the person making the will) must have legal capacity, testamentary capacity, and testamentary intent. You are considered to have legal capacity if you are over 18 years of age, have ever been lawfully married, or are a member of the armed forces of the United States. You have testamentary capacity if you have the mental ability to understand that you are making a will, understand the effect of a will, are writing the will for family, or know that you are disposing your assets. You have testamentary intent if at the time you sign the will, you intend to make a writing that dictates how your property will be handled after death.

Houston Trusts Attorney Nikki Davis

Attorney Nikki Davis works with families to devise an estate plan that makes sense for their situations. We put our nearly two decades of legal experience to work for you in helping you craft common sense solutions that give you peace of mind. We work with your family to evaluate your specific situation, and we recognize there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. To schedule an appointment, you can call us today at (713) 335-9585 or contact us online.