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Do you need a will?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you need a will.

  • Do you care who gets your property if you die
  • Do you care who gets your money if you die?
  • Do you care who is appointed guardian of your minor children if you die?
  • Do you care how you are buried?
  • Do you have an opinion about how long you would like to stay on artificial life support?

These are uncomfortable questions to answer, but without a will, you lose control over these important decisions. In many instances, a court will make these decisions for you, if you do not have a will.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document which allows you to give instructions to be carried out after your death.
The most basic use of a will is to direct the distribution of your assets, such as money, your home, and your car.
For those with children, a will is a must, to ensure that you can choose your children’s guardian.

In your will, you can:

  • Decide how receives your assets, also known as your Beneficiaries.
  • Decide what assets go to your beneficiaries. For example, you can decide that your sister gets a certain piece of jewelry and your son gets the family car.
  • Decide not to give any assets to a specific person. For example, you may have a relative that you simply do not want to give anything to. Without a will, intestate law might say that a blood relative is entitled to receive a portion of your assets
  • Select a guardian for your minor children. You may nominate a person to be responsible for your child’s personal care if you and your spouse die before the child turns 18.
  • Select the person who will handle the distribution of your assets and ensure that the terms of your will are taken care of, also known as the Executor.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

Dying without a will, is also known as dying “intestate.” If you die intestate, California law will determine who the beneficiaries of your estate are, and how much they will receive.

For most estates, dying without a will requires that the assets go through probate. The probate process can be costly and time consuming, especially in counties with busy courthouses. (read more about probate ). During the probate process, the court will determine how to distribute your assets. For married or registered domestic partners, your spouse or registered domestic partner will receive all of your community property and part of your separate property assets. The remainder of your separate property will be distributed to your children, parents, siblings, grandparents or other family members. For unmarried individuals, assets will be distributed to your family members