Alice A. Salvo is the lead trust attorney at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo and a Certified Specialist in estate planning, probate, and trust law as determined by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. She has been handling probate, trust law and estate cases for over 25 years.
What Problems Can Arise If You Do Not Have A Will Or Family Living Trust?
- Your money assets or property, such as real estate, may go to a person you do not want. If you do not have a family trust, then the state of California decides who gets what, using its rules, which may be totally different from your wishes.
- In general, most would like their spouse to inherit both joint and separate property. In a situation where you do not have a will or family trust and have only one child, California law divides your separate property equally between your spouse and child. If you have two or more children, then your spouse will receive a one-third interest and your children will divide the two-thirds interest by default. Having a family trust allows you to decide who will inherit. If you do not have a family trust, then the government (probate court) decides how your assets are divided.
- If you are separated and not divorced and you do not have a will, your estranged spouse will inherit your assets under Californian statutes.
- If you are single with no children and you pass away without a will, in California, all assets go to your next of kin regardless of whether you know them or not and whether you intended them to inherit it or not. Suppose you had a sister or brother, and your father had other children from another marriage (even if you never met them). In that case, your sister or brother would share the estate with your father’s other children.
- If you only have a will, and own a home or estate valued over $150,000, then your estate will likely end up in California probate court, a costly and time-consuming situation. If you have a properly drafted family trust, then you can avoid probate. In that case, all assets are easily transferred to your heirs. Your heirs receive the maximum amount because there is no loss of estate funds due to the probate process and related legal fees.