Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that says who will inherit your property when you die. Wills are not notarized, but California requires that a will be witnessed by two people for it to be valid in the eyes of the law. If you don’t use a will, or some other legal method to transfer your property when you die, state law determines what happens to your possessions, and your estate will go through probate.

Wills are used along with living trusts in most estate plans. You can think of them as kind of a backup plan for the living trust. Imagine that you won a big lottery prize and died from the excitement. Those winnings would not be covered by your living trust so they would go through probate before your loved ones could inherit the money. They would probably have to wait six months to a year and lose a significant percentage to legal and court fees. If you named someone in your will to receive any of your assets that aren’t covered by your living trust, they would get the asset without going through probate. You could also include instructions in your will for how these additional assets are divided among your beneficiaries. This way your wishes will be followed.

A will serves other purposes as well:

  • You can name alternate people to inherit your property in case your first choices change before you die
  • You can name an executor who will over see the distribution of your property after you die