Estate Planning Lawyer
It can be overwhelming to think of your family after you have passed. While death is something we must all face at some point, it is the thought of leaving loved ones behind that can be the most heart-breaking. In getting your estate in order and legally documenting your wishes for your assets by creating a will, you are essentially caring for your family in death.
What is the purpose of a will?
A properly executed will allows the probate court to distribute your estate exactly as you wish. When creating a will, you can identify beneficiaries and the physical or monetary assets that they will inherit. You may also identify guardianship of minors if necessary. While states vary in the legal requirements for a properly executed will, the general purpose is to provide a very clear document that shows your wishes in the event of your death.
Can my will be changed?
Once executed, a will can most certainly be changed. There are two options: make a codicil (essentially an add-on to the already existing will on a separate sheet of paper) or draft a new will. In the event that you are making a small change, the former may do the job. However, it is often easier and more succinct to create a new will and avoid the burden of having multiple pages to the existing will. In either case, you will need to follow your state’s requirements to make sure any changes are legal and binding (i.e., two witness signatures on either the codicil or the new will).
What if someone in my family contests the will?
The probate court will consider a will valid if it is signed by you (the testator) and two witnesses. However, anyone who stands to gain or lose (i.e., typically the spouse or children) can contest the will. The most common reasons for such an action are the mental capacity of the testator or that the testator was negatively influenced by another at the time of creating the will. In the event that a family member contests the will, it is not uncommon for both sides seek legal counsel and the attorneys will argue the validity of the will and the mind-frame of the testator.
Do I need a lawyer to create a will?
Although a lawyer is not required to create a will, it is advised. An experienced will lawyer Sacramento turns to will be able to guide you through the will process and ensure that you do not leave anything or anyone out. In having a lawyer during the initial process, he or she will also be able to handle any changes you might wish to make. Your lawyer will also be able to handle any issues with the will post-mortem.
Unfortunately, many families suffer when the wishes of the deceased are not clearly known. You would be remiss if you leave your family vulnerable to that long lost uncle who swoops in to stake claim where he really does not have any. There is nothing worse than a grieving person who is forced to fight with his or her family members over the property of a loved one.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at the Yee Law Group for their insight into creating a will and estate planning.