If you have children, own property, were recently married or divorced, or wish to make a special bequest to a loved one, you should make or update your will. One of our estate planning lawyers at Sagaria Law, P.C. can help you with this process to ensure that your will explicitly states your wishes.
A will is a legal document that can include details such as who (known as the beneficiaries) will inherit what property and money from you, who will take care of your underage children, and what to do with your remains after your death. Making a will is very important, for if you don't create one and you pass away, it will be up to the state of California to decide what will happen to your property and who will care for your children.
Under California law, unless you leave a will, your spouse or domestic partner will be entitled to all of your community property. They will also receive a portion of your separate property. If you have any children, they will receive the remainder of this property. If you don't have a spouse or children, your property will be divided between your relatives. If family members or other relatives cannot be found, all of your property will go to the state of California.
It is important that you update your will on a regular basis so that your will constantly reflects the state of your life's affairs.
Examples of major reasons for updating a person's will:
- Marriage and children: You may want to stipulate exactly how much you'd like your spouse and children to receive. If you have a new baby or stepchild, you will want to ensure that all of your child(ren) are included in your will. You may also want to name legal guardians for your underage children.
- Divorce: You may want to remove the name of your ex-spouse from your will. If you are in a relationship and are not married, or if you are in a registered domestic partnership with that person, he or she will not inherit anything from you after you pass away unless they are included in your will.
- You acquire or get rid of a substantial asset: For example, if you've acquired a new house in Berkeley, you will want to make sure that this asset is included in your will. Another example would be if you had sold a cottage in Los Gatos. You would then want to make sure that you remove this asset from your will.
Appointing An Executor:
It is important that you name an executor for your will. This person will be in charge of carrying out the instructions in your will. An executor will also be responsible for wrapping up your financial affairs after you pass away. As every will must go through probate to ensure its validity, the executor is responsible for taking care of the probate proceedings for you.
There are three ways to make a will in California:
1) Statutory will: This will is made by using a "fill-in-the-blanks" form provided by the state.
2) Holographic or handwritten will: This will must be dated, handwritten, and signed by you. This type of will does not need to be notarized or signed by witnesses. Nothing can be typed or printed. (All wills that are typed must be signed by at least two witnesses.)
3) A will created with the help of an estate planning attorney.
When you work with an estate planning attorney, he or she can:
- Answer any questions about what you can and can't include in your will.
- Tell you how to draft your will.
- Draft more complex instructions for how you would like your money or property to be handled.
- Help you set up trusts for certain beneficiaries.
- Ensure that your will cannot be contested.
- Oversee the signing of your will. Ensure that your will is in compliance with California law.
It is important for your will to say exactly what you want it to state so that no unintentional consequences occur.
At Sagaria Law, P.C., our experience and expertise with drafting wills often enable our clients to reduce or eliminate death taxes and avoid probate. If you would like legal advice or assistance with drafting your will, one of our probate attorneys at Sagaria Law, P.C. can help you.