Every year in California, thousands of people die without a will. This may be shocking to people who understand how important it is to have the proper estate planning documents in place. Without a will this person has no ability to direct how his or her financial assets will be disbursed amongst friends, heirs, significant others and family members.
It may be that busy Californians just do not want to take the time to face what they perceive as a major hassle or a complicated legal process to set up a will. But, for many Californians without tremendous wealth or complex assets, a simple will is far better than nothing at all. That is why California law provides the California statutory will, perhaps the most simple will form available to the public.
The good thing about the statutory will is that it is so simple that practically anyone can use it. A statutory will is essentially a standard form provided by law that allows a person to fill in the blanks regarding the naming of heirs, an executor and other potentially important people, such as guardians and custodians for children and minors. The drawback to this will is that it is so basic that it cannot cover even slightly complex estate planning needs. It provides no tax benefits and cannot be used to distribute complex assets in various forms, such as pensions and retirement plans.
People with significant assets or who want to avoid unnecessary taxation of their estate will probably not find a simple will to be very useful. Most people benefit from speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney about their needs, and can explore setting up a trust, living will and other important documents that can be custom-made to their wishes.
Source: Legalinfo.CA.gov, “Probate Code Sec 6620-6227,” accessed on Sept. 28, 2014