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Orange County Will Lawyers

Don’t Leave Your Estate in the Hands of the Probate Court

When most people think of a will, they imagine a small office filled with family members and an older lawyer divvying up all of the deceased belongings, often involving a lot of yelling and family drama. While wills can be contentious at times, they are a common method of determining how your estate is managed after your death. It can also be used to appoint guardians for minor children and designate an executor to carry out its provisions.

Having a will keeps decisions about your estate in your own hands – not in the hands of the probate court. When you begin to create a will, it is important to have an estate planner at your side to provide sound legal advice. Do not hesitate to contact the Orange County estate planning lawyers at Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie by calling (949) 752-7474 to ensure your legacy and heritage is preserved.

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What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

If you have assets and die without a will (intestate) or other estate planning instruments in place, your estate will have to go through probate for your assets to be transferred to family members. Probate can be a lengthier process without a will than with one. When you leave no valid will, your assets are distributed according to laws of intestate succession under the California Probate Code, which may not be the same as your own wishes. Under state laws of intestate succession:

  • If you are married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of your death, your share of the community property will pass to your surviving spouse, unless you are legally separated at the time of your death. If you have no surviving children, parents, siblings, or children of deceased siblings, your spouse will inherit 100% of your property. If you left surviving children and a surviving spouse, your spouse will inherit a portion of your property, and the remaining portion will be divided equally among your children.
  • If you are not married or in a registered domestic partnership but you have surviving children, your estate will be divided equally among your children.
  • If you die with no surviving spouse or children, your estate will be divided equally among your surviving parents.
  • If you are not survived by a spouse, children, or parents, your estate will be divided equally among your siblings. Half-siblings have the same right to inherit as full siblings.
  • If, at the time of your death, you have no surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings, your estate will pass to your grandparents.
  • If you have no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, or relatives, your estate will pass to the State of California.

As you can see, probate court can be rather complicated, especially in Orange County. A will may not be a cure-all for all of your financial worries after your death, but it can prove effective at resolving a number of issues.

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What Are the Advantages of Having a Will?

Having a will is a way to ensure your assets are distributed in the way you want them to be after your death. For example, if you want to leave a vehicle or some real estate to a dear friend, that is not likely to happen unless you have a will in place stating your wishes. If you have a favorite niece to whom you want to pass a sum of money, that must be stated in a valid will, or other family members may be in line before your niece to receive your assets under state law. Alternatively, if you have a writing partner, an artistic muse, or even another construction worker you regularly work with, you can leave them your life’s work or tools in a will.

Some of the key benefits of a will also include:

  • Allowing you to choose your beneficiaries and designate what portion of your assets each of them will receive.
  • Allowing you to name a guardian for minor children.
  • Allowing you to specify who you want to oversee the affairs of your estate after your death.
  • Keeps your property from passing to the state, if you have no surviving relatives.

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What Are the Different Types of Wills?

You may not be aware that California recognizes three different types of wills:

  • Holographic will: This type of will does not have to be notarized or witnessed, but it must be written entirely in your own handwriting, and it must be legible. The intention must be very clear, leaving no doubt as to what you are leaving and to whom. As it can be easily contested, a holographic will is typically used only in emergency situations – when there is no time to call in or consult an attorney.
  • Statutory will: These prewritten wills were created by the California Legislature and written into state law. If you are a state resident, you may simply fill in the form and use the will at no cost. However, you must use a statutory will exactly as it is drafted, without amendments or additions. Because of this inflexibility, it is not the first choice for most people.
  • Attorney drafted will: Often the most detailed and thorough of the wills, these legal documents are drafted and reviewed by experienced attorneys. They are often made well in advance of your death and can be modified as new assets or property become available.

Our Orange County estate planning attorneys at Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie can draft a will to fit your unique situation and suit your individual wishes, while ensuring that it meets state legal standards. You can name your own executor, establish a trust for surviving family members, state your wishes regarding cremation or burial, appoint a guardian to raise your children, and even exclude a family member as a beneficiary, if desired. If you need a will, call us at (949) 752-7474 to schedule a consultation.

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