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Your will is one of the basic components of a well-crafted estate plan. If you die without benefit of a will, you will be considered to have died intestate, and your estate will then be distributed according to state law, not your personal wishes. A correctly drafted and up to date will should be one of the most important and fundamental parts of your estate planning efforts.

Identifying Your Assets

Identifying the assets in your estate should be one of your first considerations. Deciding what you want to leave and who you want to leave them to usually takes very careful consideration.

Assets that can be left in a will are a family home, vehicles, sentimental family heirlooms, cash, stocks, retirement funds, and other personal valuables. While some assets can be passed to heirs outside the will, you will want to understand which assets will be subject to the probate process and decide exactly how you want them to be distributed.

Naming a Guardian for Your Minor Children

If you have minor children who depend on you, you will need to consider their physical and financial future. One of the fundamental goals of a will is to appoint a legal guardian for any minor children should you no longer be there for them. Your will can also provide for how funds will be set aside for your surviving spouse or guardian to be used for their benefit.

Naming Your Beneficiaries

If you are leaving your estate to multiple beneficiaries, your will must specify how your estate will be divided between them. Your will should set out each beneficiary and the particular personal property, sums of money, or other assets each should go to. The more specific your directions are, the less complications can arise.

Before naming beneficiaries, you will want to take any family dynamics into consideration before leaving belongings to some family members and not others. Having serious conversations with your beneficiaries can help you understand their feelings, expectations, and what personal items they may want before leaving them in the will.

Your will is also where you will designate any charitable beneficiaries, if that is one of your wishes.

Naming an Executor

Your executor will oversee your estate after your death and handling the probate process of your will. While this should be someone you trust, it should also be someone who is financially astute and responsible, since administering a will requires a great deal of work and organization.

Before officially naming an executor, you should discuss it with this individual to ensure that they are willing to take on this responsibility. If so, you will want to provide them with all the important paperwork necessary or advise them where all these documents can be found.

In some cases, there may be no suitable family member or friend for this role. In this case, professionals such as an attorney or accountant can fulfill the role of your executor.

Understanding the Limitations of a Will

While a will is a good first step in creating an estate plan, wills are limited in what they can do. A will cannot

  • Distribute property that is jointly held with another individual
  • Distribute property that is held with the right of survivorship
  • Distribute assets with transfer-on-death clauses
  • Distribute life insurance proceeds
  • Distribute assets that have named beneficiaries
  • Leave money with contingencies
  • Leave money to minor children without a guardian to oversee it

Some of these assets must be distributed according to the terms of the documents they were created under. Any changes that you wish to make in how they are distributed need to be made directly through that document. Other matters may best be addressed by a trust that can work in coordination with your will.

Getting Advice on Your Will in Orange County, CA

Every individual will have their own unique needs for estate planning. While online programs are available to help create simple wills, your best option to understand all the legal implications is to speak with an experienced Orange County, CA estate planning lawyer. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we take pride in assisting individuals with all their estate planning needs and answering any questions they may have. If you are considering having a will drafted in the Santa Ana area, call us at 714.694.1200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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