About 70 Percent of Americans Don’t Have a Will

Live at Five’s Board Certified family law attorney, Sonya Coffman, answers questions submitted by Southeast Texas KFDM News viewers. Who needs a will? Where do you go to have a will prepared? Where is the best place to keep a will? If circumstances change, how difficult is it to amend a will?


Well approximately seventy percent of Americans do not have all will. Probably the most common reason given is that many people believe that they do not have sufficient assets to justify having a will. Live at Five's first family family first contributor, Sonya Coffman joins us now with legal advice on wills and more. First of all Sonya, thanks for being here again we appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Who needs a will? Basically Bill anybody that has assets or property that they care about what happens to it when they die. There's no minimum amount and just because someone has a will doesn't necessarily mean that it will be probated but it's there in case it's needed. And you do need to go see a lawyer and in order to have a legal document, a legal will? I think that's a good idea because for most people it's one of the most important documents they will ever sign and what a lawyer can add to that process is among other things making sure that the will is valid and can stand up to a will contest by including a self proving affidavit and making sure it's properly notarized and witnessed. And also a lawyer can put some things in the will that would make probate a lot more efficient and easier on the people who were dealing with the will after death so its a good idea. Well if you go see a lawyer and you get a will, I mean, where do you need to keep it like it a safety deposit box or a safe or is there a copy of it at the courthouse or how does that work? That, those are all good options to keep the will safe from fire and flood and also in a place where your family knows where to find it. Uh, the lawyer who prepares the will would generally keep the duplicate and the duplicate can be admitted to probate and also one possibility is to keep the will on deposit at the courthouse for a very small fee they will keep the will and not release it except in the event of death certificate is produced or only to the person you prepared to will. So if there's any question of safekeeping or being able to find it that's a good option. Well if circumstances change is it a big deal to to change part of the will? No uh you can always amend the will uh well generally, so if it's an irrevocable will you can't change it but most wills are not irrevocable so they can be changed but you shouldn't write on the will itself you should prepare a codicil and there're a couple of ways to do that one someone can prepare that themselves as long as it's totally in their handwriting and signed and it's a good idea to put a date on it and also refer to the will that it is a codicil too. The more formal way would be to have the attorney prepare it and it needs to be notarized and witnessed just like the will. Well should a husband and wife have a joint will together or separate or what do you recommend on that? A joint will is not a good idea although it is allowed in Texas it's not good for flexibility because to change a joint will it requires both parties to agree so for example husband and wife have a joint will husband dies first and then wife wants to change some of the bequest in the will maybe a child is not in a good place to receive money or if she wants to change that that's not possible at that point so to keep the flexibility it's better to have two separate wills. Does it cost a lot to get a will I mean is this something people are going to say well my goodness I don't know if I have you know two thousand a thousand dollars or whatever cost. A simple will can be as cheap as a few hundred dollars and then depending on the amount of estate planning require wills can go up to thousands of dollars if there're trusts and complicated issues but for the average person a few hundred dollars to prepare the will. And it pays off in the long run i'm sure you know too many cases where it is really been helpful. It's the most loving thing you can do for your family is to save them from having to fight those battles after you die, to have as much spelled out as possible. Well Sonya, thank you so much good to see ya. We appreciate you being here. We look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you, Bill. Well if you have a question about family law, all you have to do is let attorney Sonya Coffman answer your questions you can fax those questions to us at eight nine two seven three oh five or you can email us at laf@kfdm.com