A will is an important legal document that helps determine how your assets will be distributed after you die. While simply writing a will cannot help you keep your estate out of probate, creating one can help save your family from the pains of California’s intestate succession laws.
Wills do not have to be complex. However, they are a necessity for almost everyone, no matter their age or marital status. This is because wills serve several important functions—foremost among them is inheritance. When you write a will, you can designate heirs and beneficiaries to receive gifts after you have passed away. A gift can be a home, a classic car, or something sentimental.
However, wills have other purposes, too. You can:
- Elect a trusted person to manage assets on behalf of your minor children
- Nominate a guardian for your minor children
- Name an executor, who will initiate probate proceedings and fulfill the terms of your will
Your will can include other provisions, too. You might wish to set aside funds to care for a cherished pet or affix a letter of instruction to explain how you want your assets disbursed.
If you do not create a will, your assets will be distributed according to a pre-determined court formula. Since this formula is set by law, it cannot be challenged. Without a will, your possessions may end up in the hands of estranged relatives—in some cases, they could even be seized by the state.
Writing a Valid Will
When you write a California will, you must ensure that it meets the state’s requirements. Generally, anyone who is of sound mind and over the age of 18 can write a will. However, your will may need to be finalized to be legally valid. To finalize a California will, you must:
- Sign the will in front of at least two impartial witnesses
- Have your witnesses sign the will at the same time, either after they have seen you signing the will or after you have acknowledged your signature
Handwritten wills do not require any witnesses.
How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
If you own a house, a car, or any other valuable assets, you should have a will. However, writing your own will can be dangerous. If you make a minor mistake, your will could be contested in court, exhausting your estate’s resources and forcing your relatives to endure prolonged litigation or intestate succession.
Depending on the nature of your estate, a will may be insufficient to protect it. After all, a will does nothing to shield your loved ones from probate. You might benefit from a revocable living trust, beneficiary designations, and other novel estate planning strategies intended to protect your heirs from probate while keeping your legacy safe from the courts.
Do You Need To Speak With An Attorney About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.