A Will is a legal document meant to carry out your wishes - or will - after your death. A Will commonly disposes of your assets, such as real estate, money and property, and may even designate guardianship for children. Your Will is probably your single most important legal document; taking the time to consult with a professional and to draft a valid Will is critical to ensuring your wishes are followed at your death and that your family or loved ones are not left dealing with a lengthy, expensive legal process.
The Los Angeles Estate Attorneys at Howard Law encourage anyone considering a Will to make arrangements to speak to an experienced and qualified attorney. A Will is a valuable tool, but it would not be enforceable if not properly drafted and may not cover all of your assets unless specific steps are taken to ensure your estate plans are in order.
A Will may not cover things like life insurance or retirement accounts, when a contradictory beneficiary is named on the policy; community property owned jointly with a spouse or business partner; and assets held in a living trust or other legal structure.
In the event that you die without a Will, the State of California will be left to determine the beneficiaries of your estate. Typically, your property will pass to a spouse if you are married. If unmarried, assets will pass children or grandchildren and then to parents, siblings, nieces or other relatives. If you spouse precedes you in death, his or her relatives may also be entitled to a share of your estate.
The State of California recognizes three types of Wills:
- Holographic or handwritten Wills: Must be legibly written in your own hand, dated and signed. No typed material will be validated as part of a handwritten Will.
- Statutory Will: Typically a fill-in-the-blanks Will designed for people with relatively small estates. Again, contacting a qualified attorney is still your best course of action.
- A Lawyer-prepared Will: A Will prepared by an experienced lawyer. An experienced California estate attorney can assist in ensuring your Will complies with all applicable laws and can help explain the many ways your assets can be transferred to best benefit your loved ones. A complete estate plan may also offer significant tax advantages and savings. Such planning can be extremely beneficial and economical in the long term.
Additionally, choosing a law firm to handle you estate planning is a good way to ensure your Will is periodically updated. Too many die without a Will and no control over their estate. In other cases, someone who has faced the task once fails to periodically update their will as their finances or beneficiaries change because of marriage, divorce, childbirth or death.
California Wills & Probate Court
Under California law, a Will is administered through probate court. Those wishing to bypass the probate process should consider a Living Trust or other legal form of transferring your assets without probate jurisdiction. Typically, the executor named in your will starts the probate process after your death by filing a petition in court. An executor is appointment by the court, takes charge of the assets, pays debts and, with court approval, distributes the estate to beneficiaries in accordance with your Will.
In many instances, hiring an estate planning attorney to assist with probate court matters can be a good idea. There are many advantages and disadvantages to probate court and an experienced attorney may best assist you in ensuring proper administration of an estate. Probate court is accustomed to resolving disputes and oversees an executor's actions, which can also help protect an estate. However, the probate court process is public, so your estate, assets and values will become public record and will be accessible by anyone who wishes to review court documents. In some cases, a probated estate may cost more in court and attorney fees, and may take longer, that an estate plan that distributes your assets through a living trust.
The Los Angeles Estate Attorneys at Howard Law offer confidential appointments to discuss your estate planning needs in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, including Riverside, Santa Ana and Anaheim.
CALIFORNIA WILLS ATTORNEYS - Call (800) 872-5925 - Howard Law