At the Estate Preservation Group in Carlsbad, I am committed to helping families plan for the future. A will is a vital component of an overall estate plan and something everyone needs. I will help you learn about what to consider when creating your will so your family and wishes are protected.
A will, or “last will and testament,” can be very useful if incorporated into a trust. These instruments are referred to as pour-over wills. When you establish a pour-over will your estate assets pass directly from the will into a trust.
A will can allow you to:
Creating a will that holds up in court is not as simple as writing out your wishes on a piece of paper, signing it, and locking it in your safe. There is a particular process you must follow to create a legal and valid will in California. Consider the tips below when creating your will:
There might be situations where you or a loved one creates a holographic will. This type of will is usually handwritten and might not be signed by two witnesses. They are usually created in emergencies, such as after a car accident when a person is not expected to live much longer but wants to make their wishes known.
Holographic wills could be as simple as a statement written on a scrap piece of paper accompanied by the writer’s signature. Holographic wills can be more easily contested in court, though, so it is important to work with an estate planning attorney to get your affairs in order before an emergency occurs.
If you do not create a will, your wealth and property will be distributed in accordance with California intestacy laws. Under such laws, your estate will go to your closest living relative. The order of kin in California is generally spouse, children, parents, then siblings. If you have no close relatives, the next of kin would be your nieces and nephews.
It is not likely the state’s plan truly reflects your specific wishes regarding who gets your assets and how much of them they receive. Establishing a will can ensure that your estate ends up in the hands of the people and organizations of your choosing.
In short, yes. A trust is useful for many reasons when it comes to estate planning, but it is not the same thing as a will. A trust allows you to determine how your assets and property are handled after you are gone, while a will indicates other wishes, not only those related to your assets. For example, a trust likely doesn’t include all your belongings unless every single item you own is transferred in writing up to the time of your death. However, in a will, you can provide general instructions for how you’d like these assets to be handled after your passing.
In addition to covering assets outside of the trust, a will also allows you to share your wishes about what you want to happen to your children in the event you die before they are adults. In a will, you can name a guardian to care for your child. That cannot be specified in a trust. If you do not have a will, the judicial system chooses a guardian they believe is the best fit for your child’s care.
In California, there are options for “do-it-yourself” wills, but I advise caution before using one of these services. A will, if not properly drafted, may not stand up to judicial scrutiny. Will contests are fairly common, with parties alleging undue influence, fraud and other acts that would render a will invalid. If you want your will to stand the test of time, it is wise to have an experienced estate planning attorney draft it.
If you have questions about establishing a will or other estate planning documents in California, our law firm is here for you.
The cost of having a will drawn up can vary significantly depending on the law firm and its pricing structure. Attorneys often charge a flat fee for will-writing services and the creation of other basic estate planning documents. In California, around $1,000 is a common cost for having professional help creating a will.
When a person dies in California, there is a process known as probate that their loved ones must go through to transfer the deceased’s assets. The probate process happens in California Probate Court. Even if a will is created, the probate process is legally required, and steps must be taken before the assets are distributed. Having a living trust established usually allows loved ones to bypass the probate process for the assets listed in the trust.
During the probate process, the debts and expenses of the deceased are paid, and the remainder of the assets are distributed to court-determined beneficiaries — or those named in a legal and valid will. There are many steps required to reach the final disbursement, and the process generally takes at least nine months to complete. However, it could be even longer depending on the circumstances. The help of a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney is essential to help the process run smoothly, especially if your case is particularly complicated.
With over 30 years of legal experience, our clients can trust us to seamlessly handle their estate planning needs. I can help you draft a will that protects your wishes and assist you when you need to make any changes to your will. In addition to drafting a will, I can help you understand the other essential components of estate planning. You can be sure your wishes are carried out, and no details are forgotten after you’re gone. To arrange your initial consultation, contact us online or by telephone.
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