California law regarding estate planning and wills can be deeply complex, even if the fundamentals of the process are fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, failing to prepare your estate can have surprising and costly consequences for your children and other beneficiaries and can leave your estate vulnerable to serious tax consequences and pillaging from so-called creditors and predators. Below, we’ve catalogued and addressed nine of the most frequently asked questions about will services in Pasadena.
- Why should I have a will? A will outlines your wishes regarding how your money and assets should be distributed after your death. Without a document like this (or a similar type of instrument, such as a revocable living trust), your heirs will have no guidance regarding your wishes. This lack of clarity can in turn lead to family disputes, complex probate court battles that sap money from the estate and confusion among your heirs.
- What is probate? Probate is a process that governs the disbursements of an estate’s assets and the payment of its debts in an orderly, systematic way. The process regulates diverse issues, such as the validation of the will and the transference of property.
- What happens if someone dies without a will? When someone dies “intestate,” the probate court will decide how and under what circumstances the estate’s assets are distributed and to whom. California law, as opposed to the decedent’s wishes, will determine the estate’s heirs and the order of priority.
- Do you need to be wealthy or to have substantial assets (such as real estate) to have a will? No. Even if you have very few assets (and substantial debt), you should still consider creating a will or revocable living trust to codify your wishes and to prevent a complicated and costly probate process for relatives to manage.
- Will my inheritors get all my financial assets? The estate may owe substantial taxes as well as debts to other lenders and creditors. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you strategize to minimum your tax burden and maximize how much of your estate can go to your family, charities of choice and other beneficiaries.
- Is a “last will” the same thing as a “living will”? No. A living will lists instructions regarding your health in the event of incapacitation. A last will explains how your assets should be handled after death.
- What is the difference between a will and a living trust? Like a will, a living trust outlines how to transfer an estate’s property and assets after death. The biggest difference is that a living trust allows the estate to bypass the potentially expensive and slow probate process.
- Can a will stop debtors from collecting after my death? In general, creditors can obtain a share of assets from the estate before heirs are paid. A qualified California estate planning lawyer can help minimize creditor claims to estate property.
- Do I need legal counsel for will services? Technically, you do not need an attorney to draft a will or a living trust. However, strongly consider retaining an experienced Pasadena estate planning lawyer to give you control over how your assets are distributed, prevent family tension after death, protect your legacy and minimize tax consequences.
There is nothing about estate planning that is easy, but knowing you have your plans memorialized can help you rest better at night. Give is a call when you’re ready. Schedule a meeting with us today by calling (877) 755-9178.