A Last Will and Testament is one of the best ways to protect your legacy. Also known simply as a will, this legal document allows you to control what happens to your property when you die. Even if you have a trust a will is still necessary to provide for a “personal representative” with powers the trustee does not have under California law
If you are like two-thirds of Americans, though, you don’t have a will and this can lead to problems after your passing. Without a will, you won’t have a say in what happens to your property and assets – the local courts will make the decisions for you. What’s worse is that not having a will can make it harder on your family during their time of mourning.
Estates almost always go through probate court to begin the legal process of distributing assets. Having a will streamlines this process to save time, money, and stress for your family.
If you do not have a will in place by the time your estate goes through probate court, California law says your estate is “intestate,” which means the court will decide what happens to your assets. The court process, known as intestate administration, can be lengthy, expensive, and frustrating.
If you die intestate (without a will) and have minor children or other dependents, the courts could decide what happens to them. The same could be true for your pets. Having a will can provide an extra layer of emotional security for your loved ones.
When you write your Last Will and Testament, you can name someone you trust to act as the executor who administers your estate. An executor is responsible for liquidating your assets, pursuing any claims you may have, closing your bank accounts, and otherwise wrapping up your affairs.
If you don’t have a will, the courts will name someone to manage your affairs, and their choice may not be the person you want making decisions about the disposition of your property or the well-being of your family.
It’s more common knowledge that a will allows you to name the beneficiaries who will receive specific assets. However, many people do not know that you can also name beneficiaries for any assets you don’t specifically list – and that you can use a will to help ensure that specific individuals don’t get anything at all. You might use your will to prevent an ex-spouse from receiving an inheritance, for example, or to ensure that all of your children receive equal college tuition.
Creating a Will is one of the best ways to secure your legacy and support the charities you love the most. If you have a specific charity, foundation, or nonprofit that you wish to support, plans can be detailed in the will.
To discuss more about creating a will in California, contact Charles Stark, a Sonoma County lawyer who focuses on Wills & Trusts, Estate Planning, and Probate. Our estate planning attorney is ready to help you create a Last Will and Testament that secures your lasting legacy.