Last Will and Testament
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document in which you describe who your property should
be distributed to upon your death. Beyond property distribution, a will
gives you the ability to name the guardian of your minor children and
appoint an individual to oversee and distribute your estate (the executor).
If you do not have a will or other testamentary document, your property
will be distributed according to the default rules of California and your
wishes will not be taken into consideration. For example, close friends
will receive nothing. Your will is essentially your last words to your
family and friends, so it is important that you consider how you would
like your property distributed.
Reasons to Have a Will
One of the most important reasons to have a will is to name the guardian
of your minor children in the event that you die. If you do not, it will
ultimately be up to the court to decide who your children's guardian
becomes, regardless of your wishes. Therefore, if you have minor children,
it is extremely important to have a will that states who their guardian will be.
Proper Distribution of Property
If you do not have a will or trust that lays out the manner in which you
would like your property to be distributed, then it will be allocated
based on California's pre-determined distribution scheme. This means
that if you would like for your property to go to anyone who is not blood-related,
you must have a will or trust indicating so. Similarly, if you would like
to split the property among various family members (some to kids, some
to cousins, etc.), you must have a will or trust that describes who will
receive what. Finally, if you would like some individuals to receive more
than others, you must have a legal document describing this.
Another element that individuals also sometimes include in their will is
a charitable contribution. If you would like to leave a gift to charity
at your death, then you must create a legal document that indicates so.
How Do I Make a Will?
Under California Probate Code § 6100, anyone who is at least 18 years
of age and of sound mind can probexecute a will. The individual making
the will must have the mental capacity to know he or she is writing a
will, understand the nature of his or her property, and understand his
or her relationships to living family members. Cal. Prob. Code § 6100.5.
Although it is possible make a will on your own, it is very beneficial
to use estate planning attorney when doing so. This document will not
come into effect until after your death, so you will be unable to clarify
any mistakes or ambiguities. Therefore, it is important that you have
an experienced attorney draft this document on your behalf. Our attorneys
will ensure that your will fully and properly carries out your wishes.
How Much Does a Will Cost?
At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, we offer free consultations either over the
phone or in any of our convenient offices throughout Southern California.
We regularly meet with clients from the Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside,
and Antelope Valley areas. Our fees are competitive and we charge approximately
$500 to $700 to draft your will, depending on the complexity of it.
If you have significant assets, a Living Trust may better suit your needs.
In many circumstances, a combination of a will and a living trust will
be executed to ensure that your property is distributed effectively.
Read more about Trusts