The best way to form the foundation of a sound estate plan is by creating your final will. With it, you can express your wishes for dividing estate assets among your loved ones. Once you have it in place, you can continue to build your plan until it meets your needs.
Several types of wills are valid in California: handwritten, typewritten and wills prepared by an attorney. You may also use a free, government-provided form called a statutory will.
A statutory will may not meet your needs
Although this will is probably better than no will, it is a simple, prewritten document exclusively for California residents. All you need to do is fill in the blanks. Sure, it is a fast and easy remedy, but even the state probate code warns against its use in most situations.
The disadvantages of a statutory will include:
- No way to minimize death or other taxes
- No special provisions for foster or stepchildren
- No means of modifying the document to fit your circumstances
For example, if you use a statutory will, you are not permitted to alter or change the document in any way.
If you still aren’t sure whether you need a more comprehensive final will, situations for which the statutory form is ill-advised include:
- Your own business assets
- You own assets outside of California
- You want to disinherit a family member
- You have more than $600,000 in assets
- You participate in potentially valuable profit-sharing or pension plans
Unless your estate is small and contains very few assets, you probably need more than a statutory will. Continue learning about estate planning and its many components to discover solutions that preserve your assets and protect your family.