Everyone who has reached the age of majority could benefit from having a will. It might be difficult to believe this statement if an individual does not have a basic understanding of how this document fits into estate planning. The first thing to know is that without one, the state of California could end up deciding what happens to an individual’s property and children.
This is because a will is the document that tells a California probate court, family and friends what a person wants to do with his or her property after death. For those who have minor children, a guardian can be appointed to take care of them in the event that the parent dies. Without these instructions, family members will need to petition the court for the right to take care of these matters, and they might not make the same decisions the deceased person would have made.
Not all of a person’s property will have to pass through a will. Any property in a trust does not have to go through probate and will be distributed in accordance with its provisions. Other assets pass to beneficiaries outside of a will, such as retirement accounts, insurance policies and other investment accounts. These accounts often require a designation form that names one or more beneficiaries who will receive the proceeds from them despite any contrary information in a will. Other pieces of property that are jointly owned upon death will also pass to the other person without going through probate.
The will is often seen as the cornerstone of any estate plan. Estate planning can be tailored to the needs of the individual, and other documents might accompany it in order to ensure that a person’s wishes are carried out as he or she intends. However, in most cases, the one document that will always remain part of the plan is a person’s Last Will and Testament.