When an individual writes a will, they create a document that specifies how and to whom their assets will be distributed upon death. In many cases, wills also name who will be guardian of their children should they die before the children are of legal age. A will is a fundamental component in any well-planned estate.
However, wills have limitations. You cannot create a legally-binding will by simply signing a paper citing your expectations and demands. Every state has its own laws for what makes a will valid.
A Will Isn’t Just a Piece of Paper
A will becomes valid, or finalized, only if:
- It has been signed in front of two witnesses
- Both witnesses sign your will after you have, and they acknowledge your final wishes
Your witnesses should sign your will at the same time, and neither witness can be named as a beneficiary in your will. In this way, California protect residents from coercion and prevents witnesses from claiming any inheritance.
If you don’t know and follow California state law when drafting your will, your beneficiaries may not receive what’s rightfully theirs. Legal experts rarely encourage laypeople to write their own wills, precisely because there’s so much room for error.
A Will Becomes Valid After You Die
When you’re considering a will, you should acquaint yourself with the legal process the document will take upon your death. Many Californians believe that writing a will allows their heirs to avoid probate; however, that’s not true. In fact, wills have no legal authority until the will-maker has passed away and an original copy has been forwarded to a probate court.
If you own property and/or hold substantial assets, you need a will to ensure that your intended beneficiaries receive what inheritance you wish to give. Furthermore, wills serve to protect children, allowing you to appoint loving, responsible guardians should you die before they reach adulthood.
Why You May Want More Than a Will
If you own a home, maintain a large bank balance, or manage a variety of assets, you should consider establishing a living trust along with a will. While both documents are similar, a will allows you to name a guardian and set certain conditions on how your assets will be disbursed after your death; a trust lets you construct more complicated demands.
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.