Helping Clients Ensure Their Last Wishes Are Known
Less than half of adults in the United States have a last will and testament as part of their estate plan, and this leaves more than half of the population without control of what happens to their assets after they die. Understanding why estate planning matters and how estate planning lawyers are equipped to help you through the process can make it easier to create a will and provide peace of mind about the future.
The law firm of MMZ Law has a team of experienced estate planning lawyers who can walk you through the process of creating a will and ensure that your final wishes are reflected. Reach out to our office today to schedule your initial consultation.
How Does a Will Work?
A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for what happens to your property after your death. A will is usually part of a larger estate plan that may include things like trusts or life insurance policies. Any adult who is of sound mind can create a will, and it’s a good idea to have one even if you don’t think you have enough assets to warrant one. Some estates qualify to bypass the probate process and go through a shortened version, but a will is still infinitely helpful in ensuring that your assets are dispersed according to your preferences.
When you’re ready to create a will, the first step is to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about what assets you have and what you want your legacy to be. An estate planning attorney or probate attorney can draw up the will based on your decisions and ensure that it meets the requirements under the law and has been properly witnessed.
What Is Required for a Will to Be Legally Binding?
For a will to be legally binding and able to go through the probate process, it must meet the following requirements:
It must be legible and in writing.
It must have at least two witness signatures from people who are not beneficiaries of the will.
You must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent.
If the will is written in your own handwriting, it doesn’t need to be witnessed. A last will and testament does not need to be notarized to be valid according to California law. However, having it notarized can speed up the probate process because it makes the will self-proving, and the witnesses don’t have to verify that you were of sound mind when you wrote it.
If you have questions about what you need to do to create a will as part of your estate plan, contact an estate planning attorney or a probate attorney to get legal counsel that is specific to your circumstances.
What Is the Difference Between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will?
While many people refer to a last will and testament as just a “will,” it’s important to be aware that there is another type of will: a living will. Both can be part of your larger estate plan, but they serve different purposes. A last will and testament declares how you want your assets to be handled after your death, while a living will details what kind of medical treatment you want if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate those decisions. Many estate planning attorneys recommend having both of these documents in place to ensure all of your estate planning needs are taken care of.
How Can I Minimize the Chances of My Will Being Contested?
Wills are contested with far less frequency than daytime TV would have us believe, but it can and does happen. Some of the common reasons a will might be contested include:
Accusations of undue influence in the creation of the will
Disinheritance of a spouse or children
The presence of two seemingly conflicting wills
In general, the best way to reduce the chances that a will might be contested is to work with an estate planning attorney or probate attorney. Estate planning attorneys are familiar with the common issues that come up with wills and can help you do what’s necessary to ensure that your will is found to be valid during the probate process. It can also help to destroy any previous versions of a will to reduce confusion and talk to your loved ones about your wishes so there aren’t surprises after you pass on.
Do I Need an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney to Create a Will?
It’s not legally required to engage an estate planning attorney or a probate attorney to create your will or any part of your estate plan. However, working with a team of experienced estate planning attorneys like those at MMZ Law can provide valuable advice and act as your personal representative throughout the process. This includes advising you on how to structure your will to avoid issues later on and providing information on other tools for your estate plan, such as a living will or a trust.
The main advantage of an estate plan is that you get to enjoy the remainder of your years without having to worry about what will happen in the future. Working with an estate planning attorney provides that peace of mind so you don’t have to worry about disputes or confusion between loved ones later on.
Get help with your estate plan, including will creation, when you call the law firm of MMZ Law at 909-347-7444 to schedule your initial consultation. Our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys can help you design a will and handle any other estate planning documents you need.