Some Californians think that a last will and testament will cover everything when the time comes to leave accumulated wealth to heirs. While a will is an integral part of estate planning, this document doesn’t work well in some situations.
Limitations of a will
Although a will allows you to name an executor to carry out your wishes, select a guardian for minor children and name an executor, only having this document as part of your estate has many drawbacks. For one, a will does not avoid probate court, which can be lengthy and time-consuming in California. When beginning the estate planning process, you should consider other instruments that will avoid probate, keep your assets safe and ensure that your final wishes are carried out.
Consider trusts and other estate solutions for these issues
One way to avoid probate is to create a living trust that includes real estate, investment accounts and other property. You retain control of the living trust while you’re alive, but that control passes to your named beneficiary upon your death. Using “transfer on death” designations for life insurance or other investments will also avoid probate and overrides any designations in wills. Make sure to periodically review your beneficiaries on these documents.
What your will shouldn’t do
Placing conditions on your heirs that require them to do something to receive their inheritance isn’t a good idea, as conditions are often left open to interpretation and can result in probate litigation.
If you wish to impose conditions on your heirs, setting up a trust is better. By naming beneficiaries in this manner, you’ll ensure that your heirs will receive assets in a way that follows your wishes.