In California, one of the best ways to plan for the future is to create a will. Wills are legal documents that direct how a person's estate will be distributed after they have passed away. Without a will, the distribution of a decedent's property will be conducted by a probate court. This could mean that a person's last wishes for their property and possessions will not be considered in the distribution.
In order to create a will, certain requirements must be met. The person who creates the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years of age and must be able to understand what they are doing. The will must include a statement specifying that it is a last will and testament, and it must name an executor. An executor is a person who is entrusted by the testator to make sure that the will is carried out according to their wishes.
The executor is responsible for keeping track of all the decedent's property and making sure that all taxes and debts owed by the decedent are settled. The will must also name beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are the people to whom the decedent's property will be distributed. This can typically include spouses, children, relatives, friends or charitable organizations.
Finally, it is important to periodically review a will after it has been created. This ensures that any changes in the testator's property or assets will be reflected in the will.
Estate planning can be a very complex matter. The testator must consider and deal with taxes, family relationships, property valuation and unforeseen changes. An attorney may be able to offer advice on taxes and property distribution to guide the client through the formation of a will.
Source: USA.gov, "Writing a Will", December 17, 2014