Creating a will can sound like a daunting process, but knowing a few basic things about how wills operate can be a helpful start. Here are a few quick facts you should know about wills — but make sure to contact a local estate lawyer for specific information about creating and managing your own will.
- You can disinherit your children from your will, but not your spouse.
If you’re married to your partner when you pass, your spouse will likely inherit a portion of your estate. Most states have legislation to ensure that married spouses automatically receive a percentage of their partner’s estate, even if they are not included in their partner’s will. If you were married and got a divorce, however, this is not the case. Your will lawyer Sacramento, CA residents trust will have probably discussed this with you during your divorce and encouraged you to revise your will accordingly.
- Beneficiaries can contest your will.
Many people assume that creating a will is the easiest way to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. However, beneficiaries and others related to you can contest the terms of a will upon that individual’s passing if they believe that it’s somehow invalid.
- You can create a will on your own, but you need to have someone witness it.
This is one of the main benefits of working with a lawyer when creating a will. In order for your will to be valid, you’ll likely need to have one or two individuals serve as witnesses. These witnesses should be people who are not named as beneficiaries in the will and therefore have no interests in the terms you’ve laid out. You and your witnesses might also have to sign affidavits in front of an authorized notary in order to authenticate your identities and signatures.
- You can have both a living trust and a will.
It’s common for individuals with significant assets to have both a living trust and a will (although you certainly don’t need to be rich to have both). The benefit of having both documents is that you’ll have two opportunities to dictate your final wishes. Your living trust will likely be the document that is referenced if both documents are available, but if your living trust is damaged or lost, your will can serve as a backup document.
- Your will won’t be a private document when you pass.
After an individual passes, their will must go through probate court. It’s during this process that the will becomes a public document. For this reason, many people choose to create a trust and merely have a will as a backup document. Living trusts do not have to go through probate court and are kept private.
- Dying without a will can cause a lot of problems for your intended beneficiaries.
When someone dies without a will or living trust, this is called “intestate.” Rather than distributing your assets to beneficiaries as you would prefer, the probate system will assess your estate and pass along your assets according to state laws. Probate court can take a long time, and the appointed administrator who disburses your estate likely won’t know what your intentions and wishes would have been.
Thank you to our friend and contributors at Yee Law Group, PC for their knowledge about wills and divorce.