Dying without a Will

Many people have the impression that they can die without leaving a Will and their loved ones will be fine. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. A Will is a document that directs the distribution of your assets to the right people at the right time at the right tax rate. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

As we have said many times, a Will goes through the probate process. Which means it goes through court to prove it is real and get distributed. It is a public process, and here in California it can take years in court, and that can take a lot of money.

Currently, we are hearing about how Prince died without an Estate Plan or Will. His family will most likely go through a long Probate. Many people have come forward claiming to be illegitimate children or long lost family, in order to get a piece of the pie.

Recently there was an article in the New York Times suggesting that most people do not need Wills. We wanted to address this. Many states may have a simpler, more uniform Probate code, making the time-consuming process of creating an estate plan unnecessary.   Wills only govern certain types of assets, and many people have more of their money in assets that pass to heirs through beneficiary designations, not Wills. These assets include retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and life insurance.

But let’s not forget we do not live in a state with a simple Probate code. We live in California! And California is one of the most complex states to die intestate (without a Will). Your assets will be used to pay court and lawyers fees, which means there could potentially be no assets left to pass to your loved ones once the process is complete. Assets like your home could be sold to pay for lawyers and court costs. If you intend to leave your home to your children, not even a Will can ensure that happens.

Also, a Will is only effective in death. What would you do if you were incapacitated? How would you make sure your bills get paid, or who would take you to the doctor? This is where a comprehensive estate plan proves its worth.

If you have any questions about Wills and Trusts about the laws of Probate in California, please give our office a call 818.887.9401.