Some people may tell you that outside of being extremely wealthy, a basic will is all you need for an estate plan. Although this advice may be well-intended, it fails to consider all of the ways a comprehensive California estate plan can protect you and your loved ones. For those who have wondered: Is having a will enough? Here is the answer.
What Your California Will Does
A California will is an important document that serves multiple purposes. First, your will is a legally-binding instrument that sets out your final wishes and specifies exactly how you want your assets to be distributed. Second, this device creates a way for parents to name preferred guardians for their minor children. Third, the document lets you name a personal representative to ensure your instructions are carried out during probate. Without a will, your estate will have to go through intestate succession. This means that after any debts are paid, your estate will be given to your heirs according to law rather than your preferences. Additionally, without a will, your survivors will have to wait to access funds, and they will endure a long process while the probate court administers your estate.
What Your California Will Does Not Do
- Create Conditions on Bequests Although your California will directs assets to your heirs, this document does not control how the recipients can use their bequests. By contrast, a California living trust allows the grantor, or trust creator, to set up a trust for the benefit of his or her beneficiaries for a specific purpose. For example, you could create a living trust for your children for the express purpose of paying for college. Trust payments could only be made for expenses connected to this reason.
- Avoid Probate By law, your California will is going to be filed with the probate court. However, when you place assets into a California living trust, they legally belong to the trust and therefore are not part of the probate estate. Unlike probate heirs, trust beneficiaries don’t have to wait. This is because trust beneficiaries will be able to receive disbursements according to the trust terms outside of the probate process. You can also leave assets such as a bank account or property to your loved ones through survivorship provisions. Survivorship allows ownership to automatically transfer to a surviving account or interest holder upon the other party’s death. This transfer takes place without a court process. Using survivorship allows those remaining on accounts to access funds immediately and for interest holders to assume ownership of property in a less burdensome manner.
- Protect Your Interest During Incapacity California wills are silent on what to do if you become incapacitated. Your estate plan should include a California Advance Health Care Directive and a power of attorney for finances. A California Advance Health Care Directive gives you a way to leave medical treatment instructions for your providers and name a decision-maker if you are incapacitated. A power of attorney for finances gives you a way to temporarily cede control of your financial interests to another person until you regain your capacity. Both of these devices are essential to protecting your well-being and interests.
Having a California will is an excellent place to begin. By working with an experienced California estate planning attorney, you can examine your circumstances and develop the right measures to complete your comprehensive estate plan. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we understand the importance of covering all the areas of your life when preparing a complete estate plan and can help. Call us today at 818-676-9572 for a free consultation.