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A will is a legal document that allows you to decide what will happen to your property after you die. Proper planning now will ensure that your wishes will be carried out, and that your loved ones will be spared confusion and expense. Having a well-drafted will is essential. Call Don Ho Law to begin preparing your will today.

What happens if you don’t have a will, or if you have a poorly drafted will?

If you die without a will, California state law will direct the settling of your affairs. If you die with a poorly drafted will, the courts will be in charge of interpreting how they think you would have wanted your property and money distributed. This can lead to litigation and disagreements between beneficiaries, and may result in property distributions that do not reflect your wishes.

What a will can do

In your will, you are able to name the people you’d like to inherit your money and property. You can list specific gifts, directed to specific people, and you can also direct what is to be done with any remaining assets or money you do not designate as specific gifts.

If you have a minor child, you can name a guardian in the instance you die before your child turns eighteen. You can name a person who will care for your child’s personal needs, as well as a person who will manage your child’s finances, or you can name one person to take care of both of these for your child.

Your will can also name the executor for your estate. This person or institution will be responsible for administering your estate through the probate process, collecting and managing your assets, paying your debts, taxes, and expenses, and following the instructions in your will to distribute your assets and property to the people you have designated.

How is a will created?

In California, you can make a will in three different ways. California recognizes handwritten wills, called “holographic” wills, written and signed by you. California also provides fill-in-the-blank will forms. Both of these have serious drawbacks, as the risk of mistake or confusion is high. Where holographic wills are used, it is often necessary for the court to interpret your wishes and instructions, a process that can be lengthy and expensive. Fill-in-the-blank forms are clearer, but they are also limiting, and can make it difficult to express your wishes if your estate does not fit into the cookie-cutter format. The third type of will – one which is prepared with the assistance of a lawyer – ensures that your will satisfied all of the legal formalities, and that your assets will be distributed according to your instructions. Don Ho Law will help you to tailor a will to your specifications.

What about other assets?

A will is generally used to distribute assets which are titled in your name. Some assets are not generally included in wills, such as life insurance, retirement plans, and certain types of trusts. A will can be the centerpiece of an estate plan, and it can also be used as one piece out of many options available to you. Don Ho Law will help you to craft an estate plan that covers all of your needs.

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