Whether you’ve recently received life-changing news or you have acquired new assets, you might be considering creating a Will to accommodate these changes. However, California’s estate planning laws can be complex, and attempting to write your Will yourself is quite a challenge. If you don’t have the legal knowledge, the mere thought of creating a Will can be intimidating. Don’t worry — there is hope.
Today, we will discuss why you need a Will, what can happen if you don’t have one, and then outline how you can get started making your Will in California.
Why You Need a Will
When it comes to planning for and securing your family’s future, you should never underestimate the value of a Will. A Last Will and Testament is a vital document that details your wishes regarding the distribution of your property, assets, and the care for your minor children upon your death.
Composing a Will is the first step in the estate planning process, including establishing a Trust and selecting a Power of Attorney. You can use a Will to:
- Appoint a guardian to your minor children
- Select a trusted individual to handle the property you leave behind to your children
- Establish an executor to fulfill the terms of your Will
- Leave behind property and assets such as cars, real estate, and bank accounts to people or organizations
To ensure that your loved ones are protected and have the assets you want them to inherit when you die, you must have a Will in place.
What Happens If You Die Without A Will In California?
Should you pass without a Will in place, your property will be subject to intestate succession. Under California’s intestate succession laws, your assets will automatically go to your closest surviving relatives regardless of the quality of the relationship you had with them.
When you die, your spouse and children will automatically inherit your estate. In the absence of a spouse or children, your grandchildren or parents will inherit the property. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even distant relatives can get your property based on the line of succession. If the courts can’t identify any blood or relatives by marriage, the state can even take over your property in rare cases.
How To Make A Will
If you don’t have a Will you have you can have one created by:
- Hiring an attorney to devise a Will for you
- Compose your own Will from scratch or using a form
Unlike in other states, in California, it’s legal for you to compose your own Will. Yes, Wills created without the help of an attorney are valid so long as they meet the legal requirements put forth by the state. However, without legal counsel, you miss out on the wealth of legal knowledge an attorney provides — knowledge that can shield your assets from taxes, preserve your investments for future generations, and establish legal means of securing your legacy.
State Last Will and Testament Requirements
You have to be at least eighteen years old to create a Will in California. The validity of your Will depends on your mental competence. The law requires that you be of a “sound mind” when writing and signing a Will. Mental competence implies that you understand that you are executing a Will, and you are aware of your family and the descendants of your Will.
You’ll need to have two witnesses present when you sign and date your Will. The witnesses will also have to include their signatures on the Will. Finally, it is important that you appoint an estate executor. The executor is responsible for overseeing your affairs in the event of your death. This individual has to be a legal United States resident, at least eighteen years of age.
Types of Wills
Perhaps the best way to create a Will when you lack resources to hire an attorney and you have limited legal knowledge is to fill out a statutory template provided by the state. A Statutory Wills is a basic template that follows the California legislature. If you decide to take this approach, you have to fill in the blanks with your personal information and have two trusted individuals there to serve as witnesses. The witnesses must be at least 18 years old. This template accounts for the bare minimum information needed to create a Will, and does not provide any additional safeguards.
Not every state recognizes Holographic Wills, but California does. A Holographic Will is a handwritten Will produced from scratch. This type of Will is usually drafted during an emergency.
If you decide to compose a Holographic Will you should include the following information:
- A statement identifying yourself and affirming the contents of the Will were written while you were in a sound mind
- Specify your beneficiaries, or you want to inherit your property and assets
- Your signature and the date
You don’t need to have a witness present or have a Holographic Will notarized for it to be valid.
Attorney Drafted Will
Perhaps the most well known and most often-recommended type of Will is one that is drafted with the counsel of an estate planning attorney or paralegal. These types of Wills meet California legal standards and are personally tailored to the individual and their needs, including additional provisions and accounting for variables that Holographic or Statutory Wills do not.
For example, if one wants to exclude a particular family member from inheriting assets, establish a Trust for their beneficiaries, name a guardian for their minor children, or stipulate burial arrangements, they can do so with the assistance of an attorney.
It’s Easy to Make a Will and Gain Peace of Mind
Some people may put off creating or updating their Will because they believe their loved ones will automatically get their inheritance. This isn’t always true.
At Valley Divorce Services, we want to help you look after your loved ones and give them an easy roadmap to follow after you pass away. WIth 20 years of legal experience, we know precisely how to provide expert legal document assistance that will give you and your loved one’s peace of mind.
With Valley Divorce Services’ professional legal guidance, It’s easier than ever to make a Will that works for you. From family law to estate planning, our legal document preparation services offer an affordable option for legal document help!
Request a free legal consultation today for more information on how we can help you plan for the future.