What Makes a Last Will & Testament Legal in Texas?

by Anna Assad

A last will and testament is a document that directs the distribution of assets from a person, commonly referred to as the testator, to his loved ones. The will must meet certain standards to be eligible for probate, which are set forth in Chapter 57 of the Texas Probate Code.

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Proper Execution

A will may be made in Texas by a person who is 18 or older, legally married or serving in the armed forces. The document can be typewritten or in the testator's handwriting, but entirely handwritten wills may have to be interpreted by the court. The testator must sign the will himself or direct another person to sign for him in his presence.

Credible Witnesses

A typewritten will must be signed by at least two credible witnesses over the age of 14 in Texas. However, a handwritten will may not have to be witnessed as long as the entire document is in the testator's handwriting only, according to Section 60 of the Texas Probate Code. The testator can attach a signed affidavit to a handwritten will while he is still living attesting the will's validity to avoid the witness requirement. Texas law does not forbid using a person who benefits from the will as a witness, but doing so may limit or revoke the person's inheritance under the will.

Testator's State of Mind

The testator must be mentally competent at the time of the will's preparation and execution. She must understand what the provisions of her will mean with respect to her assets and her heirs. If the testator was pressured or subjected to undue influence from another person or persons about the creation of her will and its provisions, the will may be invalidated in probate court.

Named Beneficiaries

A will must convey a specific intention to pass on the property and assets of the testator. Texas law does not limit the testator's ability to name beneficiaries and assign shares and assets, but Section 58b of the Texas Probate Code does provide for automatic invalidation of some types of will bequests. The testator cannot name the attorney who helped prepare the will or any members of the attorney's family or staff as a beneficiary. However, if the attorney is the testator's spouse or relative, the bequest is held as valid.