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California Will and Living Trust Laws

Posted by Lacey

If you die without a will also referred to as intestate; by California law the state will determine your beneficiaries.  Everything you own will not automatically go to the state instead if you are married or established a registered domestic partnership, they will receive your community property.  If you have separate property it will be distributed to your children or grandchildren, parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews or other close relatives.  This is why it is important to write a will when you are alive so that you can determine who receives your assets and the amount to be distributed.

California law allows you to handwrite your will but you must date and sign it.  This type of will does not need to be notarized or witnessed but if you type your will it must be signed by two witnesses.  In addition, you can also complete a statutory will or a “fill-in-the blanks” form.  This form is designed for relatively small estates.  Or you can also hire a lawyer to prepare a will that conforms to California law. 

Do not confuse a Living Will with a Will.  A Living Will in California or also known as advance health care directives and durable powers of attorney for health care decisions.  Advance Healthcare Directive requires two witnesses, but is not valid if you are pregnant. A durable power of attorney for health care requires two witnesses or a notary.

Finally, a Living Trust document is becoming widely used to protect your assets, avoid probate for all assets placed into the trust as well as paying high costs.  A Living Trust manages and controls your property during your lifetime and then shows how it is distributed at the time of your death.  This lets you pass on your assets to your spouse or children or other heirs in entirety and without going through probate court.  As a result you can write a Living Trust in addition to a Will.

You can find many on line services offering documents that you can download for completing wills or living trusts.  However, if you have a complicated or complex estate we suggest you contact a lawyer.

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