What is a Will?
A Will is a document that is drafted and executed (signed and witnessed) in accordance with California law that is used to dispose of a person’s property after their death. Some other characteristics of a Will is that it only “speaks on death” which can be interpreted to mean that it has no true significance until the person that created it (the Testator) dies. Therefore, a Will cannot help you manage your property while you are alive and well, or when you are alive and have lost the ability to manage your own affairs due to incapacity. Such incapacity may be caused by an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, or perhaps a coma or other mental issue. Further, a Will must be probated after the Testator passes, and Probate is usually slow and expensive (see my blog on “Probate Costs”). A Will is also a public document that anyone will be able to view after Probate has been opened. Wills also are fairly poor at controlling how the property is to pass.
So back to the question, “how do I create a Will in California?” California does provide a “statutory Will” which is a fairly simple Will that provides a fill-in-the-blanks style document. This type of Will is usually only recommended for people with relatively small estates. As usual, when in doubt, or if you have questions about things, you should consult an attorney, or have an attorney draft a Will for you. You can find the “Simple Will” on the State Bar of California website here: California Bar Association Simple Will
To read about the benefits of a Revocable Living Trust versus a Will, please see my blog “Comparison of a Will to a Revocable Living Trust”. The three most important reasons to use a Living Trust versus a Will in California is that it can help you manage property should you become incapacitated, it avoids the time and cost of probate, and it is a better way to distribute your property because a Living Trust provides more control.
Remember that everyone has an Estate Plan, even if they never create one. When one passes without any estate planning, their property passes by the laws of Intestate Succession. That means the state of California decides who takes what, and how much. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the state deciding such important issues for me, I’ll take of that!
It is never too early, and you are never too young to plan. Well… you should be at least 18 years old before you do your estate plan! I would love to help you get your estate planning issues settled. Call now and we can start planning.
William Dan Powell
Just like my website, nothing in this blog is intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. I am licensed to practice law in California. Further, please remember that I speak in generalities in my blog (and on my website). There are so many different factors that can contribute and completely change the outcome that it would not be practical to discuss all of them here. This is why I speak in generalities. Thanks again for reading.