What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that is effective at your death. This document will name your executor who is the person who will handle your assets after your death. It also permits you to name beneficiaries, set up support trusts for minor children or other dependents, and designate when and how your gifts will be given. If you have minor children you can also name a guardian for these children. If your assets are in excess of $166,250 and you do not have a trust, your estate will probably need a probate proceeding which can be very expensive.
Words used in legal documents can be confusing. It is important to not only understand “what is a will,” but also the content of your will or living trust. You may want to review our list of common terms used in wills and trusts in preparation of planning your estate. You can also download a booklet on wills published by the California State Bar, click here.
- Leave specific gifts of items, assets or money to individuals, organizations or institutions, or distribute your estate in percentage shares.
- Disinherit or forgive debts owed to you.
- Name the personal guardian you desire to care for any minor children you may have.
- Appoint an executor of your will. This person will manage your finances upon your death, pay off your debts, pay your taxes and distribute your assets to your designated heirs.
When is a Will Sufficient for Estate Planning?
- If the total value of your assets at the date of your death is less than $166.250, excluding any asset which has a beneficiary provision and any asset which is in joint tenancy (or other multiple tenancy).
- If the value of your real property at the date of your death is less than $55,425.