Summer vacations may not seem like the time of the year to make sure you have a solid estate plan in place, but it actually can be one of the best times to do it, especially if you are doing any extended traveling. While we never want to think that the day may come that we will no longer be here to take care of our family, it is so important that when that day comes, we have taken the appropriate steps to make sure they still will be when we are gone.
And there is also one more important reason to make sure you have an estate plan in place. If you die without one, then the intestacy laws of California will determine how your estate is distributed and those distributions may not be how you would have wanted it. If you die without a will, this is legally referred to as dying intestate. California’s interstate law are very specific in how a decedent’s assets will be distributed. This is referred to as intestate distribution.
Who Inherits What?
Under California law, if you are married but do not have a will when you die, what your spouse inherits depends on the ownership of your property – whether the property was community (acquired while you were married) or separate (acquired before you were married).
Your spouse will inherit the community property. If you had separate property, your spouse may inherit a portion or all of it. The problem is that without a will, any other relative you have – living children, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews – may all be entitled to a share of your separate property. Even if you intended that your spouse inherit that vacation home you purchased before you were married, without a will, your long-lost nephew could actually be entitled to half.
Other Issues to Consider
It’s not just failing to have a will that can cause issues. There are other important documents that everyone should have in place to make sure their wishes are met. If you have minor children, you should make sure your estate plan includes naming a legal guardian for them.
You may also want to discuss setting up trusts in order to help avoid the probate process and minimize any estate tax obligations. It is also important to have a power of attorney set up that names someone to handle your finances should something happen to you and you are no longer physically able to do so. At the same time, you can have your attorney draft a healthcare proxy that names a trusted individual to act as a proxy to make medical decisions for you should you be unable to do so.
Call Our Office Today
If you would like to learn more about the estate planning tools that are available and may be beneficial for your family, contact Yee Law Group to schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated Sacramento, CA estate planning attorneys.