The Importance of a Will: Protecting Your Assets and Ensuring Your Wishes are Honored

It is not hard to find people in Los Angeles who are obsessed with money and status, but that has never been you. Even in a city where everything glitters, you are well aware that you cannot take your money and possessions with you when you die. You can, however, cause your surviving relatives a lot of stress. There are enough egomaniacs in Los Angeles that some of them have probably written their estate plans in such a way as to cause as much hassle as possible for their surviving relatives as possible, but this is not something that estate planning lawyers recommend. When you decide what to include in your will, after you think of all the things you do not care about, you will be left, by process of elimination, with the things you do care about. A Whittier estate planning lawyer will help you understand the importance of a will. They will also help you think clearly about your priorities as you write your will.

The Importance of a Will: Everyone Needs One

Estate planning is not just for old, rich people. “I’m not old” and “I’m broke” are not compelling reasons not to write a will, especially since age and wealth are relative. If you read the obituary page, you will find plenty of people who never made it to your age, and even if you are broke, you are still valuable to someone, and someone is valuable to you. Your will does not only indicate who will inherit your property. It should also address the following other matters:

  • Personal representative of your estate – The personal representative completes legal procedures on behalf of your estate and makes financial transactions on its behalf until your estate settles. Even if you do not own much property, the personal representative is still responsible for settling your debts and filing your final tax return. Your will should indicate a person to represent your estate. The person may or may not be your family member, but they must be an adult resident of California.
  • Final disposition of remains – Do you want your body to be buried or cremated, or do you prefer a new, eco-friendly option like alkaline hydrolysis or human composting? If you do not specify this in your will, assume that your surviving relatives will disagree about what you would have wanted and that they will hold grudges about it for the rest of their lives.
  • Custody of children and care for pets – If you have minor children, you need a will. If you die while your children are minors, your children’s other legal parent will have custody of them. Your will should indicate who should raise your children if you and their other parent both die before the children reach adulthood. If you do not have minor children but you have pets, indicate who should be responsible for the animals’ care after you die.

With provisions related to property or to other matters, indicate the heirs or other relevant parties in as much detail as possible. Do not just say, “My son,” because the probate court probably does not know your son. Instead, say, “My son Augustus Bloggins of Yolo, California.” Always indicate successors who will take over the indicated role if the originally listed person has died. For example, “If my son Augustus Bloggins predeceases me, my grandson Julius Bloggins of Napa, California shall be the personal representative of my estate.”

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

When you write a will, you have the final decision about who inherits your property. You can leave your entire estate to one family member, or you can divide it equally or unequally among several surviving relatives. You can even leave property to friends or to charities. If you do not write a will, California law indicates that your closest surviving relatives, such as your spouse, children, or siblings, inherit your property.

In most cases where a person dies intestate (without a will), the personal representative can easily locate the deceased person’s surviving relatives and give them their inheritance. If the deceased person does not have any surviving family members or if the personal representative cannot find them after reasonable efforts to do so, the state inherits the decedent’s property. This is called escheatment.

Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum About Estate Planning

Never underestimate the importance of a will. An estate planning attorney can help you write your will so that your property can pass to the beneficiaries of your choice. Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates APLC in Whittier, California, to set up a consultation.

A Whittier estate planning lawyer can help you write a will in which you address the inheritance of your property and final disposition of remains and choose a personal representative for your estate.