Wills 2018-03-16T20:45:06+00:00

Wills

It’s a simple fact of life — everyone will die, and we never know when that day will come. Because of this, one of the most important decisions you’ll make in protecting your family’s interests after your death is whether or not to make a will.

A will is a legal document of instructions for the distribution of assets (including money and property) as well as assignment of guardianship for minors who may be under your care at the time of death. It’s our mission at King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc. to provide you with advice, instruction and guidance that best suits your unique needs and wishes. Our clients can feel comfortable when working with us in creating their estate plans, which all begin with the building of a will.

Definition Of A Will

A will guarantees that your estate will be divided according to your personal wishes. Whether it be cash, houses, cars, jewelry, or any number of material items, a will distributes your assets to your beneficiaries, or the family members, friends, charitable organizations and pets that you name in your will. Assets that are not disclosed directly in your will should also be given assignment, whether it be set up for distribution by family members, placed in a trust, or auctioned for charity. Without a will in place, assets, including items of intrinsic or sentimental value, can be contested by members of the family whom you may not wish to have any piece of your estate.

Some assets cannot be included in the will because the beneficiary is named within the individual policies, such as life insurance and retirement plans. Other items that must be excluded from a will are:

  • Assets that are jointly owned.
  • Securities or brokerage accounts.
  • Bank accounts or savings bonds that include a “transfer on death” (TOD) or “pay on death” (POD) designation.
  • Community property with right to survivorship.
  • Living trusts.

A will is also important for the appointment of guardianship over a child under the age of eighteen. If you fail to create a will, or someone is not named to take over the welfare of the child at the time of your death, the appointment of guardianship is left to the discretion of the courts. The role of guardian also includes ownership or responsibility over any assets bequeathed to the child.

It is good to remember that a will is specific to you. It should never be a joint venture between you and a spouse, family member or domestic partner. In that regard, it’s still a good idea to have a will even if the bulk of the estate is jointly owned, just in case the secondary owner (usually a spouse or domestic partner) dies before you, thus transferring sole ownership to you.

Validity

In order for a will to be valid, it must be signed and dated by the person leaving the will, as well as two to three witnesses who have no interest in the will.

Types Of Wills

There are several ways to create a will, which all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Executor

The executor is the person or institution appointed as a personal representative to administer your will and guarantee your wishes are being fulfilled. This executor may manage and distribute your assets, pay debts, expenses and taxes. Make sure to choose your executor wisely, as they are also entitled to compensation for their services, as the job can be extremely time-consuming.

Revisions and Updates

Change happens fluidly throughout your life, but a will only reflects your wishes, desires and financial circumstances at the time it was signed. Significant events (such as death, birth, marriage, divorce, influx of money, etc.) require you to review and/or update your will every three to four years, thus making sure it always represents your current situation. The value of assets, the sale or purchase of new assets, the purchase of significant property in another state, and the age of your children and status of your assigned guardian should also be considered when deciding when and how often to update your will. When revising a will, you should always have a lawyer redraft the will. Make changes or updates by crossing things out or adding hand-written information to your current will may nullify the intent of the changes and be discarded.

Revocation

You may never know when a copy of an older version of a will will rear its ugly head, so if, for whatever reason, you wish to revoke a will, the best course of action is to amend it with a legal document known as a codicil. You may also state the revocation in a new or updated will to ensure the outdated will is legally defunct.

Intestacy

Should you pass away without having made a will, you will be declared as having died intestate and your estate will be distributed by the laws of your state and county. Your assets will be divided according to your local legislature without regard to your personal wishes or the needs and desires of your family. Generally, if you’re married, your spouse will receive all of your assets, with children and other family picking up some of the minor assets. But should you have no living relatives, the state becomes the beneficiary. Friends and charities do not benefit without a will.

A will is only the first step of estate planning. It is a good idea to consult with a qualified lawyer to make sure your will conforms with California law and does not have any unintended consequences. King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc. is here to help you understand the importance of a will (and estate planning in general) and how to best manage your estate to benefit you and your beneficiaries.

For more information, contact us to set up a consultation.

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