Wills are the most widely recognized and heavily utilized component of estate planning. In its simplest form, a will communicates your intent to your heirs (family) and the court (probate judge) regarding how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. A will is a legal document that can include details such as who will inherit your property or money, who will take care of your minor children and what will happen to your remains after your death.
Everyone, regardless of wealth or family setting, should have a will in California. If you do not have a will, the Probate Court will determine what happens to your property and who will care for your children after your death.
Under California law, unless you have a will, your spouse or domestic partner will be entitled to all of your community property and a portion of your separate property. If you have any children, they will receive the remainder of your separate property. If you do not have a spouse or children, your property will be divided amongst your relatives. If a family member or other relative cannot be found, all of your property will go to the State of California.
It is important that you update your will on a regular basis so that it reflects the current state of your life’s affairs. Several events in life make amending or preparing a will particularly important. For example, after a divorce (or during the divorce proceeding), you may want to remove your ex-spouse from your will. If you did not have a will while married, it is an important financial planning tool as you move forward independently. Also, if you are in a relationship but not married you must have a will or your partner will not inherit anything from you.
A will can also act as a complimentary estate planning tool in conjunction with a living trust. You can create a pour-over will which adds smaller assets, like a car, furniture, or specific gifts, to your trust upon your death. The will essentially pours these assets over into the trust where the assets are then governed by the provisions of the trust and thus not subject to the probate process.
The attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri can work with you to create a will which fits within the big picture of your desired estate plan.