When you begin planning your estate for the first time, you will need to learn about common structures for distributing property to heirs such as the will. This blog addresses a few basic questions about wills and their purpose in estate plans. If you have more questions after reading or if you want to make a will, we suggest contacting an estate planning attorney to help you.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that explains who you want to inherit your estate after you die. Your will also lists the person whom you want to have gather and manage your estate (called an executor) before it can go to the people who inherit (called your heirs).
Some people choose to make specific gifts of money, real estate, or personal items to specific people in their wills. Some people choose to give their entire estate to one or two heirs, or to charity. As long as your will follows legal requirements in California, you can give your estate away as you please.
What Is a Will’s Purpose in an Estate Plan?
A will explains a person’s last wishes concerning all property that can go to the heirs under the terms of the will. Your will can be the only estate planning structure in your estate plan, or it can work together with other legal documents. If it is the only structure, it usually gives away the entire estate by its terms. If there are other structures, some property may go into a trust, some money may be kept in a retirement account, and so on.
How Do You Make a Will?
To make a will, you can write down a list of how you want to give away your property. Then talk to an estate planning attorney who can prepare the legal language that you need in the official will document. Your attorney will help you get witnesses to the document and choose a safe place to store it. You should avoid pre-written will forms available on the Internet, as they may not meet California law and may not accurately express your wishes.
Are There Other Estate Planning Structures in California?
Yes, and structures such as trusts, life insurance, and retirement accounts may help you achieve your estate planning goals better than a will, or in addition to a will. If you are part of an international family, are a non-citizen or a non-resident of the U.S., or have millions of dollars in assets, you will want to explore other estate planning structures besides just a will.
Planning your estate and wanting to write your will? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.