A will is a basic but effective tool for expressing your wishes after you die. Without a will, the court will make decisions about your estate, distributing assets according to the laws of intestate succession. Having a fully executed and valid will can ensure your debts are paid and your assets and personal property are distributed according to your wishes.
Regardless of whether you have substantial assets or very few, every adult should have a will should the unexpected happen. Moreover, your will should be reviewed and updated when things change, such as marriage, divorce, births, deaths, and accumulation of assets. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you craft a will that will preserve whatever legacy you choose to leave behind.
At The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc., I am committed to helping clients draft wills and other estate planning documents — as well as litigate challenges in court. I’m proud to serve residents of Woodland Hills, California, and throughout the San Fernando Valley, including Los Angeles County, Ventura County, and Santa Barbara County.
A will is a legal document that specifies how you want your property distributed after you die and who you want to serve as the executor or personal representative of your estate. Wills also allow you to appoint a guardian for minor children and someone to manage your assets on behalf of your minor children.
There are three types of wills in California:
A drafted will is typically created by an estate planning attorney and provides the opportunity for the person making the will (the testator) to leave highly individual instructions for the distribution of their estate. The will must be signed by the testator and that signature witnessed by two disinterested adults.
A holographic will is entirely handwritten, authored, and signed by the testator. It is typically used only in the event of an emergency. It does not have to be witnessed or notarized but must be precise and clear or it will likely be declared invalid.
A statutory will is a document written by the California legislature. You write in the names of those you wish to leave your estate to; however, you are not allowed to revise any terms of the form as it is written. This will must be signed by two disinterested adults who witness the testator’s signature.
If you die without a will, referred to as “intestate,” the probate court decides how your estate is divided. The court will distribute your estate between your spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other heirs according to an order prescribed under the laws of intestate succession. Even if you wanted your estate to be otherwise distributed, the court will distribute the prescribed intestate shares to your heirs. If you have neither a spouse nor any living relatives, the state will keep your estate.
Wills and intestate estates are probated in California. If there is a will, the executor will collect assets, pay debts and expenses, and distribute the remaining assets as specified in the will. If there is no will, the court designates an administrator, usually a spouse or child, to handle the executor’s duties.
Matters involving estate planning can be incredibly complex. Don’t attempt to navigate the creation of your last will and testament alone. Reach out to me in Woodland Hills to get started crafting a roadmap for your loved ones.
The key difference between a will and trust is that wills are subject to probate which makes them public documents. They are subject to legal challenges and require on average nine months to more than one year to settle. A trust, on the other hand, does not go through probate, so its assets and distribution remain private. A trust is not subject to court challenges.
A will is one of the most personal documents you will ever make. Every competent adult of age 18 and older should take the time to make one and update it throughout their lives to allow their loved ones to grieve without the stress of an intestate estate. An experienced estate planning attorney can make the process easy and ensure that your will complies with California law.
Every adult should have a will. At The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc., I’m here to provide the guidance you need to make critical decisions such as appointing an executor of your estate or guardian for your minor child. At the end of the day, my goal is to give you the peace of mind you deserve. If you live anywhere in the San Fernando Valley, including Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, contact me today.