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Will Attorneys in Bakersfield, California

Most adults know they should have a will. Nonetheless, more than 40% of them don’t have one. Most have simply not gotten around to it. Others assume they don’t have enough assets to merit one.

Every adult should have at least a basic will in which they determine what happens to whatever they may own when they die. If you delay in creating a will, the court will decide who benefits from your estate after you pass away.

At Underwood Law Firm, we understand that creating a will and other estate planning documents can be a complex and confusing process. However, we also understand that investing time and effort into estate planning can provide peace of mind to our clients and their loved ones. Leaving a lasting legacy has never been more important.

Just as vital as creating a will is keeping it updated when life changes. Accumulation of assets, starting a business, getting married, going through a divorce, or having children are all milestones that your estate plan needs to keep pace with throughout your life. If you need to create or update your will in Bakersfield, Lamont, or throughout Kern County, call Underwood Law Firm today. Our skilled attorneys can walk you through the process, address your concerns, and help you craft a will that expresses your wishes.

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Is There More Than One Type of Will?

The first thing you should know about wills is that California acknowledges three types:

  1. Wills drafted by your estate planning attorney are the most flexible and the most likely to withstand challenges. Your attorney keeps abreast of estate planning laws and ensures the document meets all legal requirements.

  2. Statutory wills are those created by the California legislature and enacted into law. They are forms you can complete and sign; however, you cannot make changes to the form. This makes them extremely inflexible.

  3. Holographic wills are the most easily challenged, so few people use them. They must be written in the creator’s hand in their entirety and signed. They do not need to be witnessed or notarized, but anything that appears in a holographic will that is not in the creator’s handwriting, including using letterhead, will render the entire document invalid. These are sometimes used in emergency situations, but rarely used otherwise.

What Should Be in My Will?

The will should clearly identify you as the creator, also referred to as the “testator.” In your will, you should name the individual you choose to administer the will, referred to as the “executor.” You should also identify individually or categorically all assets you own that are subject to probate and the persons or entities to which you want them distributed after you die.

Commonly inherited assets you may address in your will include personal property without a beneficiary otherwise designated. For example, you name a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, so you don’t need to include that in your will. You will, however, want to name the person you choose to receive your expensive work of art or your grandmother’s rocking chair.

Ideally, your will should express contingencies. For example, if your first choice for the executor is unwilling or unable to serve in that capacity, you would name a successor to serve. Or, in the event a beneficiary of your will predeceases you, you can express where you want those assets to go instead.

Additionally, you can name the person you want to serve as the legal guardian of your children should you die while they are still minors. That person must be appointed by the court to serve in that capacity, but barring their disqualification for failure to meet certain legal criteria, or their unwillingness to serve, they will likely be approved.

Why Is Having a Will So Important?

If you do not have a valid will at the time of your death, you die intestate, and the court decides how your estate is distributed. Those who will benefit from your estate are entitled to do so under the laws of intestate succession. This might mean that an heir inherits even if you did not want them to.

Although wills are subject to the probate process, administration of your estate takes less time with a will than it does without one. The value of a well-crafted will to your loved ones and beneficiaries is exponentially greater than a poorly crafted will or dying intestate.

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

With a trust, you transfer ownership of your assets to a trust, which means they are no longer owned by you. You name the people you want to benefit from the trust, and they do so without the need to go through the probate process.

Avoiding probate sounds ideal, but there are certain things you cannot do with a trust that you can with a will. Perhaps the most important is to name a guardian to care for your minor children when you are gone. In some cases, even if you have a trust, you will also need to have a will.

Will Attorneys Serving Bakersfield, California

If you want to choose who benefits from your estate when you die, you should have a will. However, some wills are more effective than others. As experienced estate planning attorneys, we have worked with hundreds of clients on their wills and other estate planning documents while treating each client with individualized attention. It’s never too early to create—or update—your will. Begin now by reaching out to the Underwood Law Firm in Bakersfield, California.