What is a Will?
A will, otherwise known as a “last will and testament,” is a document that sets forth a person’s wishes in the event that they become medically incapacitated or pass away. Wills can be used for a number of different purposes, including the following:
- Naming a person to become the guardian of your children and property after you die
- Serving as a backup to a living trust
- Establishing how estate taxes and any debts should be paid
- Naming an executor to make sure the terms of the will are carried out.
Types of Wills
There are several different types of wills that you can choose from. The first of these is a simple will.
- A simple will is useful for someone with a small estate. This type of will contains a designation of the executor of the will and simple distribution of assets. You can also name a guardian for your minor children by using a simple will, as well as appointing a person to manage the financial assets left to your children.
- A pour-over will is a testamentary device wherein the writer of a will creates a trust, and decrees in the will that the property in his or her estate at the time of his or her death shall be distributed to the Trustee of the trust.
- A joint will is one that is executed by two different people, typically spouses. Generally, a joint will is created by a married couple who agrees to leave everything to the other spouse when the first one dies. The joint will then dictates who gets the remaining assets after the second individual dies.
- A living will is a will is one that establishes your wishes in the event you become medically incapacitated. Typically, a living will dictates whether or not you want to have extraordinary measures used to prolong your life (such as life support) if the circumstances warrant it. A living will is only in effect if you are unable to make these types of medical decisions on your own.
- Handwritten wills are those that are completely handwritten. These wills are also called holographic wills. Holographic wills do not have witnesses and are signed only by the testator (drafter of the will). This type of will is not recognized in all states, but it is a valid form of will in the state of California.
- An oral will, also known as a nuncupative will, is one that is spoken orally to witnesses rather than being written down. There are very few states that recognize oral wills as being valid, and California is not one of them.
Benefits to Setting Up a Will
There are many benefits to setting up a will. By having a will drafted, you are able to ensure that your wishes regarding your property and assets are honored upon your death. A living will or advanced health care directive, can benefit you by having your medical-related wishes stated ahead of time to be followed in the event you are unable to make medical decisions on your own. Wills allow you to have a say in where your assets are to go once you pass away, so you can rest easy knowing that your family members or anyone you choose will be cared for when you die.
What to Include in Your Will
When you create a will, there are certain things you want to make sure you include. There are three main aspects you should consider when having your will drafted. The first of these is guardianship if you have minor children. Your will can designate the guardian who will take care of your children if you unexpectedly pass away. It can also state a financial guardian to be appointed for your children to manage the assets you leave to them before they turn 18.
Next, you want to include exactly how you want all of your assets to be distributed and to whom they should go to. Finally, your will should include your wishes for the distribution of any property you own.
When You Should Set Up a Will
You may be wondering when you should create your will. The best answer to this is now, assuming you are over the age of 18. It is an unfortunate reality that anything can happen at any time, so it is best to be prepared and make sure that your children and loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes. It is especially important to get a will set up once you have children.
Steps in Setting Up Your Will
Setting up your will involves several steps. Ideally, your very first step will be meeting with an attorney because this process will go much smoother with an attorney handling the drafting of your will. Once this process has been set in motion, the next step is to gather up all of your relevant financial documents for your assets and insurance policies. Next, you will need to decide exactly what type of will is best for you and how you want to proceed with the distribution of your assets and property. Once you have completed the above steps, your attorney will draft the will for you, and it will then be your responsibility to keep it in a safe place to ensure it is found and used when you pass on.
What is a Will Executor?
A will executor is responsible for carrying out the deceased individual’s financial obligations. In your will, you can choose to designate the executor of your will, or in some situations, the will executor will be appointed by the court. The responsibilities of the executor of a will include tracking down all assets and paying any debts and taxes from the estate. The will executor will also be responsible for making sure that the named beneficiaries in the will receive the property and assets to which they are entitled.
Cost of Creating a Will
The total cost of creating a will depends on what type of will you opt to have drafted. Of course, if you have a complicated financial situation, it will likely cost more to have your will drafted since it will take more time to complete. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to learn more about the cost for the type of will you wish to have created.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Will Happen If I Die Without a Will?
If you die without a will, then under California law your assets and property will go through the probate process. This process involves your assets and property getting distributed according to the laws of the state of California. Typically, if you are married, your property will go to your spouse if it was acquired after the marriage and then any property acquired before the marriage will be split between your surviving spouse and your children. If there are no blood relatives, generally your estate will then go to the state.
Is There a Minimum Amount I Must Be Worth to Create a Will?
No, there is not a minimum amount that you must have in order to create a will. You can create a will even with very few assets. Having few assets, especially if you are young, should not hold you back from creating a will.
How Do I Know Which Type of Will Is Best for My Needs?
There are several different types of wills you can create, and which one is best for you is very dependent on your individual circumstances. For this reason, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney who can assess your needs and work with you to develop the type of will that fits you best.