What is a last will and testament? Your last will and testament, otherwise known as a will is a legal document where you give specific instructions that are to be carried out after your death. For example, you can direct the distribution of your furnishings and prized collections, and you can name guardians for your minor children. You may change your will at any time during your life, however, it becomes irrevocable once you die. Your will allows you to name:
- Your beneficiaries, including your spouse, family members, friends, or charitable organizations. You may also list specific gifts such as your classic automobile, your jewelry, your photographs, or a certain amount of money to beneficiaries.
- A guardian for minor children. You can also nominate a person to manage any assets you leave your child until he or she turns 18 years old.
- An executor to collect and manage your assets, pay your debts and taxes that may be due, and then with the court’s approval, distribute the remaining assets to your beneficiaries.
While a will is the foundation of an estate plan, it is only a part of the estate planning process. Whether your estate is large or small, you would benefit from an estate plan.
A will does not cover everything that you own, it only affects those assets that are titled in your name at the time of your death. Assets that are not affected by a will include life insurance, and cash proceeds from an insurance policy that are paid to designated beneficiaries.
Assets not covered by a will include:
- Payable on death bank accounts
- Assets held in a trust
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Transfer on death or pay on death securities
- Community property with right of survivorship
What if I die without a will?
If you are not married, your assets would be distributed to your children and grandchildren, if you have any. Or, to your parents, siblings, nephews and nieces or other relatives. The State of California is the beneficiary of your estate if you die without a will and you are not married and have no living relatives.
No one except for the attorney who helped you write the will needs to know the contents of your will, but your executor and close family or friends needs to know where they can find it. You should keep your original will in a safe place such as a safe deposit box, or a locked, fireproof box in your home or office.
To learn more about the benefits of writing a will, contact a San Jose estate planning lawyer from WealthPLAN, PC. For more than 15 years we have been providing sound legal advice and we would be glad to help you too.