You may assume there’s no need to prepare a will if you don’t own considerable real estate or personal wealth. It’s common to believe that retaining a lawyer to prepare, draft, and execute your will isn’t worth the cost. However, not having a will can actually cost you and your surviving loved ones more in the end. Intestacy, the term used to describe dying without a will, causes considerable delays in wrapping up your final affairs. Developing an arrangement with an experienced California estate planning lawyer will help you avoid the costs and pitfalls of dying intestate.
Assets Must Be Distributed Regardless of Value
Under California probate law, everything you own must be distributed to your descendants if you don’t have a will. Your spouse, children, parents, siblings, and distant relatives may be included in this group. Therefore, it’s possible that someone you don’t intend to receive your assets may take title to them by operation of law. You don’t have control over who gets what.
Costs Associated with Appointing a Personal Representative
You’ll need someone to legally act on your behalf after you die, which means that individual will need to file papers with the court to request appointment as personal representative. There are filing fees involved with this type of court proceeding. Plus, someone charged with administrative duties might need the assistance of a lawyer, because there’s no will to guide them. The court filing and attorneys’ fees can add up to more than the value of your estate if you don’t work on estate plan to avoid the costs. The Personal Representative can also handle post death matters such as personal injury or death lawsuits in behalf of your estate.
An Administrator Must Post Bond
California law requires a personal representative to procure a surety bond; the bond acts as a sort of insurance policy against misconduct as the representative distributes your assets, pays final bills, and sells other property. Similar to other forms of insurance, there are fees involved to pay the premiums. The bond amount required by statute varies depending on the value and type of assets, but the cost may run higher than you think.
Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Your Options
There are significant benefits to preparing a will and other estate planning documents, even if you don’t consider yourself wealthy. The legal team at the Law Office of Charles D. Stark has experience developing plans for estates of all sizes, and we can help you understand your options. Please contact our Sonoma County, California office with questions or to schedule a consultation to review your circumstances.