The last will and testament is a very important part of an estate plan, and everyone should consider having one. Anyone who does not have a comprehensive estate plan, should at the very least, have a will. Yet, only 30% of Americans have an executed will. If you are wondering who should have a will, then at least you are considering planning for your future, and that is a good thing.
Wills are for everyone – not just the rich
If it matters who receives your money and property after you die, then you need a will. If you have minor children, and it matters to you who will care for them if you die unexpectedly, then you need a will. No matter how much wealth you have accumulated, executing a will can ensure that your estate will go to the beneficiaries of your choice, after your death. Otherwise, a disinterested judge will make those decisions for you.
Choosing a guardian for minor children is crucial
If you do not designate someone to become guardian of your minor children, should something happen to you, then you will have no say in who that person will be. Most of us do not expect to pass away anytime soon, but if you die unexpectedly without a will, your family forced to make that decision during an already stressful time. Furthermore, the court will ultimately have to determine which guardian will be in the best interest of the child. Making that decision in advance, and discussing your choice with those you intend to nominate as guardians, is a much better action. Planning ahead will also give you invaluable peace of mind.
The laws of intestate succession
Intestate succession is a set of rules that are followed when distributing an estate where there was no will. The process is used only to distribute assets that are owned in your name alone. So, joint property is not included in intestate succession. For example, if you own a car with your son, and both of your names are on the title, the car will automatically pass to your son upon your death. Retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other assets that name specific beneficiaries, are also examples of property that is not controlled by the laws of intestate succession.
Can anyone create a will?
Although a will is a very common estate planning tool, not everyone is competent to create a will. If the person creating the will, known as the “testator,” does not have the legal capacity required, the will may not be considered valid. For a will to be valid, it must be executed while the testator has the legal and mental capacity to do so. There must also be an absence of undue influence, fraud, or duress in creating the will. Having legal capacity means being old enough to make a will, which in California is 18 years old. The testator must also be able to understand the nature and extent of the property in his or her estate, as well as, the identity of his or her heirs.
If you have questions regarding wills, or any other estate planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.