Although no one likes to think about their own deaths, it is important to be prepared in case something unforeseen happens to you. No matter how young you are, if you have children, a sizeable estate or even if you just want to leave your baseball card collection to someone specific, you should have a will. You can have a lawyer help you write a will or you can use a state approved form to write a simple will if you are single, married or divorced with a small estate.
Writing a Will
When you write a will, you are giving specific instructions on what to do with your assets and who is to take care of your minor children when you die. Usually, if you are married and your spouse is still alive, then they will get your assets and retain custody of your minor children. However, if you want some of your assets to go to someone else other than your spouse, you need a will to specify those arrangements.
In your will you will name your:
- Beneficiaries – The people to whom you are leaving your assets.
- Executor – The person you entrust with carrying out your wishes.
- Guardian – For taking care of minor children if both you and your spouse die, as well as the person who will oversee their assets until the children are 18.
Some of your assets will not need to go into your will because you have already named the beneficiaries for those assets or you may have assets that are in joint tendency with someone else, usually your spouse. For example, if you have a life insurance policy, you will have already named the beneficiaries when you bought the policy. In addition, any bank accounts, real estate or other assets you have with someone else will automatically revert to them upon your death.
If You Don’t Have a Will
If you die intestate, meaning without a will, the state of California will determine who gets your estate. If you are married or have a registered domestic partner, they will receive your share of what is called the community assets, those assets you bought together within the partnership or marriage and part of your separate property assets. The state will then divide the rest of your separate assets between your children, if any, or other relatives like parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc.
If you are single, then your assets will be divided among your living relatives, but your friends or charities you may have wanted to leave money or other assets to will not receive anything. You are never too young to have a will if you want to make sure friends, charities or other organizations inherit some of your assets upon your death. If you have a sizable estate or minor children, call the Law Offices of Anne Dowden Saxton to get help preparing a will.