What happens if you pass-away without a Will in California? Any asset that is in your name alone will be divided among your spouse, children, or other relatives in accordance with California Rules of Intestacy. One of your relatives will be appointed by the court to collect, account for, and to distribute your assets.
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A California will or testament is a legal document created by a testator to expresses their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at death. The person appointed in the will to execute testator’s wishes is known as the executor who will manage the estate until all distributions are final.
California Will Requirements
Your will must have been written by a testator (the person writing the will) who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind. A California will can be holographic, which are handwritten, if they meet special requirements. California will law is relatively straightforward. The will must be written and signed by an individual who is of legal age (18) and of sound mind to be a valid will.
Benefits of a California Will
In a will you may designate who is to receive your assets at your death. In your will you can also designate an executor to appear in court on behalf of your estate, to collect your assets, pay your debts and taxes, and distribute your assets as you specify. You can also nominate a guardian to care for and raise your minor children. You can designate custodian to manage any assets your children may be receiving until they reach any age from 18 to 25.
Probate and California Wills
With or without a will, any asset that you hold solely in your name goes through the probate process. Additionally, your will is subject to probate because, the court must determine if your will is valid.
Community Property and Probate
During your marriage, you and your spouse earned money from work and wages which was used to buy or invest in assets (a home, cars, furniture, IRA, pensions, investment accounts, etc.), all of which is community property. In you will you can only give away your one-half of any community property. You cannot use your will to give away your spouse’s one-half community property.
Any asset held in joint title does not go through probate but automatically belongs to the other named owner. If your spouse or child is on the deed to your house as a joint tenant, the house automatically passes to him or her and does not go through the probate process. Life insurance and retirement plan benefits may pass directly to the named beneficiary. You will does not necessarily control how these types of “nonprobate” assets pass at your death.
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