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Types of Wills

California Wills for Estate Planning

Creating a California Will is an integral part of the estate planning process. A will can help reduce or even eliminate disputes that may arise amongst your family members regarding the distribution of your property in the unfortunate event of your death. If you do not document your wishes in either a will or a trust, your assets will be distributed in accordance with California Probate Laws. This means that only your closest living relatives will inherit your property, in the distribution percentage that the Legislature has set out in the Probate Code.  

Types of Wills

Wills ImageA will is the most commonly used method of documenting a person’s wishes for the distribution of money and property upon death. The basic requirements for a valid will are that it be in writing, signed and dated by the “testator” (the person who creates the will), and witnessed by at least two “disinterested” adults. Disinterested for this purpose is someone that is not mentioned as a beneficiary in the will itself, or in trust documents. There are many other intricacies of California law that should be taken into close consideration when you are establishing a will.

If your estate is valued at less than $100,000 in combined assets, you may only need a “simple” will to distribute your assets. However, if your estate is valued at more than $100,000 in combined assets, or if you have many beneficiaries and complex assets, such as real property, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. Before you start to plan your will, you should discuss the various types of wills with your attorney to determine which type of will best suits your needs. .

  • Simple Wills
    Simple wills are effective for estates under $100,000 in combined assets because probate will not be required, and the executor can distribute the property privately, without court involvement.

  • Pour-Over Wills
    A “pour-over” will works in conjunction with a trust. The “pour-over” will is a safety net in the event that an asset in your estate has to be probated because it “pours” the asset back into your trust at the end of the probate. So, if you forget to put an asset into your living trust, or if the asset is worth more than $100,000, it will have to be probated. However, your executor will be directed to distribute the money or property according to the terms of your trust, not in accordance with the intestacy laws of California.

  • Holographic Wills
    A holographic will is created in the testator’s own handwriting. Although holographic wills are recognized in California, they create many problems in probate and often end up disputed by the beneficiaries, especially if the decedent made other wills prior to or after the holographic will was created. Before a holographic will can be probated, the handwriting must first be proven to be that of the testator. The executor must provide a sample of the testator’s handwriting or produce a witness who can swear that they saw the decedent write the will. Also, many people combine a partially typewritten will with handwritten notes. Then the court must determine which is the operative document and if it was properly executed. These are just some of the reasons why holographic wills often fail in probate.

Preparing Your Own Will

Many people ask if they can prepare their own will without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Rarely is a self-prepared will problem free. The requirements for executing a valid will are very specific, and you are also restricted from leaving your money to certain types of people, like a caregiver or the attorney who drafts your will.

If you have never had a will, or you need to update or change your will, you should not proceed without the advice and guidance of a qualified California estate planning attorney. By working with an experienced estate planning lawyer, you will be able to create a valid and enforceable will, and protect your assets and your family more effectively.

Pleasanton Estate Planning Law Firm

Living Trust DocumentsAt our office, we can work with you to develop a comprehensive estate plan that will fit your needs and reflect your wishes. Our attorneys prepare all types of wills for our clients, including:

  • Simple Wills
  • Pour-Over Wills
  • Living Wills (Advance Medical Directive)
  • Testamentary Trust Wills
  • Holographic Wills 

It is important to remember that your will requires a probate! If you want your heirs to avoid various hassles and probate delays, you will need to discuss other estate planning options with our Law Firm such as creating an estate plan which includes a Revocable Trust.

Contact our Law Firm

When you work with us, you can be ensured that your estate will be distributed as you intended. Our attorneys can help you create a formal, typewritten will that meets all the necessary legal requirements. We will guide you through the process and make sure that your will is drafted, executed, and witnessed properly.

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Daniela Lungu

Law Offices of Daniela Lungu
4695 Chabot Drive, Suite 200
Pleasanton, CA 94588

Phone: (925) 558-2710
Fax: (925) 558-2701



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