Creating a will is a common part of estate planning for many Californians. When you take the time to establish a will, the process of transferring your assets to your beneficiaries after your death is dramatically simplified for your loved ones. Additionally, you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your most important assets will be transferred to the correct recipients after your passing, whether an individual, an institution, or a charity.
However, it must be valid and legally binding for your will to serve its purpose. The laws and guidelines that dictate the validation process can differ depending on the jurisdiction. For example, California has established a complex set of will and probate regulations. Even if small errors are made in the document’s creation, your beneficiaries could be faced with a complicated situation, and your will might not be enforceable.
To ensure your will follows all relevant regulations and guidelines and effectively distributes your assets to those you hold dear, consider consulting with a Tustin wills attorney. Attorney Christopher P. Walker is an estate planning lawyer in Tustin, California, with the knowledge and expertise to assist you in this critical estate planning task.
When a person dies, California courts must distribute their estate, pay any remaining debts and taxes, and pursue any debtors in probate court. If that same individual has a will, this legal document is used to guide the probate process. In a will, you can establish your heirs and beneficiaries, specify who you’d like to receive each of your assets, establish the care of any minor children, and name an individual to carry out these wishes.
This person, known as the executor, will be in charge of ensuring your estate pays outstanding debts and distributes remaining assets to your beneficiaries. Wills are legal documents, and assuming you’ve created one correctly and followed regulations, the executor and California court are obligated to adhere to the terms of the will. Without a will to guide these actions, probate can be a costly and drawn-out process for your beneficiaries. Probate court will be tasked with naming an administrator and distributing your estate according to California intestacy laws instead of your wishes.
Like wills, trusts are a popular estate planning tool in California. Both are used to dictate the transfer of an estate to beneficiaries or heirs. However, these two types of documents are not interchangeable.
Unlike a will, a trust is a relationship you, the trustor, create with a third-party trustee charged with holding your property and assets until it is necessary to distribute them after your death. When a trust is established as a living, or revocable, trust and signed by the grantor, it becomes effective immediately, though the grantor can change it at any point before their death. This isn’t the case for a will, which only becomes active after an individual has died. As such, it’s possible for a trust to provide instructions for asset transfer occurring before or after the grantor’s passing without the need for probate court.
If someone has created a will and not a trust, their estate will still need to proceed through California’s probate court for validation. Trusts are commonly used to minimize or avoid probate altogether. However, many individuals choose to create both a will and a trust, especially if there is a need to establish the care of minor children.