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The Importance of Having a Will

County Law Center > The Importance of Having a Will

A will is a document of legal significance that specifies the last wishes of a deceased person. The document is intended to outline and govern how an estate is dispersed. Without a will in place, an estate will be dispersed according to probate court and what happens to your estate might not be your intent.

There are a few rules that apply to a will and include anyone who is at least 18 years and of sound mind can make out a will, the will must have at least one substantive provision such as leaving property to a beneficiary, there must be at least one person appointed executor or personal representative, the will must be dated, signed and witnessed by two non beneficiary persons.

Wills establish guidance over physical assets such as vehicles and houses. Wills establish future responsibility and ownership of certain items of emotional significance such as photographs, collectibles and furniture. Wills also provide for the future of a beloved pet.

A person who dies without a will is said to be intestate. California laws provide a contingency plan for such an event. The rules are sometimes vague and inflexible. The family of the deceased will receive the property and other elements of the estate, but not in the proportions you may have desired. Non family members are not recognized and have no claim to any part of the estate, no matter how close they may have been. Without a designated executor, the court will appoint one. This will cause much strife and conflict if more than one person steps forward to fulfill that role.

Under California State law, if you die without a will and leave a spouse behind, your estate will become the property of your spouse. If children and a spouse survive you, probate court will determine how your estate will be proportioned between them. If you have no spouse and children, but are survived by your parents, your estate transfers to your parents. If you are survived by siblings, your estate will transfer to your siblings, if there are no parents, spouse or children.

According to estate planners, approximately 50 to 70% of Americans die without a will. Think of a will as the last gift you will give your loved ones, and be sure to put one in place and help make your passing just a little bit easier.

Because a will is a legally, enforceable document, it is essential every word carries significance. Without the appropriate terminology in place, according to the California Probate Code, your final wishes might be misconstrued and tax and financial repercussions may ensue. To consult with a recognized expert in estate planning, contact Marc Duxbury at County Law Center located in Carlsbad, California telephone 760-438-5291.