A will is a legal document that allows you to manage your estate and transfer your property after you die. In your will, you can designate beneficiaries to receive your assets and provide special instructions as to how you want your property and assets to be divided. Beneficiaries can include your spouse, children, friends, siblings, charitable organizations and any other person or entity that you choose. A will also enables you to select a guardian to care for your minor children. Furthermore, a will allows you to express your wishes regarding the end of your life (i.e. funeral, burial, cremation, etc.).
Only assets that are in your own name at the time of your death can be included in your will. Any assets held in certain types of investment accounts (i.e. retirement accounts - 401(k) plans) or trusts will be transferred, after your death, to the beneficiaries you have designated on those specific accounts or trusts.
As circumstances change throughout your lifetime, it is prudent to review your will on a regular basis. A will can be changed through amendment or can be revoked at any time. The Conejo Valley Law Group can assist you in drafting or modifying a will.
California's Probate Process
Probate is a court-supervised process that accounts for all of the decedent's assets and distributes them as required by law. First, outstanding debts, taxes and fees are paid from the estate. The remaining assets are distributed according to the instructions outlined in the decedent's will. If the decedent does not have a will, the assets are distributed according to California's law of intestacy. When a person dies intestate (without a will), assets are distributed in a manner set forth under state law. The law of intestacy will distribute assets to the decedent's closest living relatives.
In your will, you can designate an executor to collect and manage your assets. In California, if no executor is designated in a will, one of the decedent's closest relatives will be appointed as the executor of the estate. The executor will pay all taxes, debts and other expenses that are due. Once the debts are paid off, the executor distributes the decedent's assets according to the instructions in the will.
If you have a will from another state, California will respect that will. However, the probate process is governed by California law, which may differ somewhat from the laws of your former state. A lawyer can review your documents and ensure that your wishes will be respected by and are consistent with California law.
Consult an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer
Although it is possible to draft your own will, it is best to consult an attorney, with experience in estate planning, to learn what strategies make the most sense for your particular situation. An estate planning attorney will help to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death. Retaining an estate planning lawyer to draft your will can prevent many disputes that can arise during the probate process.
An experienced estate planning attorney at the Conejo Valley Law Group can draft a valid and enforceable will that will protect and provide for distribution of your assets and prevent complications during probate. Please contact the Conejo Valley Law Group to discuss your estate planning needs and options.