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When a will is not part of estate planning in California

It is not uncommon for people in California to take steps to outline the distribution of their assets after death. Estate planning is a process through which a person can make known any desires regarding properties, business interests, family heirlooms or other valuables, as well as many other intentions concerning medical directives or powers of attorney. Not everyone includes wills in their estate plans; however, a failure to do so often has repercussions for family members further down the line.

When a person dies without having left a will as part of an estate plan, the value of the estate typically becomes a key factor in the probate process. Various details may make the valuing of an estate a complicated and difficult process. For instance, when a decedent owned trademarks or copyrights or has left a legacy of work that will continue to generate income after death, estate valuation may prove to be a challenge.

With regard to celebrities, the value of their licenses and images often increases after their deaths, also potentially increasing the value of their estates. Several notable musicians have died recently without having executed wills. In some states, when a decedent has no spouse, surviving descendant or parents, an estate may pass to the surviving siblings or other family members.

Avoiding future contentious debates among family members or a lengthy probate process is often possible through careful estate planning. Because such matters can be legally challenging, it is advisable to execute a plan alongside experienced legal guidance. During a consultation with an attorney, clarification of California estate laws can be sought in order to make more informed decisions regarding one's own plan.

Source: blog.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com, "To die without a will in the land of 10,000 lakes", Jessica Zaiken Sienkewicz, June 6, 2016

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