For many in California, it can be uncomfortable to consider the inevitable reality of death. But, it is something that will happen to everyone. With that in mind, there are certain issues that have to be accounted for regardless of the financial and personal situation of the individual. This is true with those who have significant property and money and those who are of more modest means. To that end, having a will can ensure that loved ones left behind will receive what the deceased, or decedent, wants them to receive. All properties will be allocated based on the terms of the will. Nonetheless, there are issues that will arise if the person dies without a will, and it is important to understand them.
The death of rock legend David Bowie at the age of 69 on January 10 came as a shock to many music fans in Northern California. Fortunately for his loved ones, Bowie had prepared an estate plan and executed a will in 2004.
Many California music fans remember singer James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," who died nine years ago. Unfortunately, litigation over his estate remains ongoing. Recently, four of Brown's six children reached a settlement agreement, which has been submitted to a court in South Carolina for approval. But two of Brown's son's oppose the settlement and claim that, by challenging their father's will, the other siblings have forfeited their rights to any inheritance.
No matter the age of a couple, it is not uncommon to draft a will and establish an estate plan at some point during a marriage. Major decisions are made in these legal documents, and they can be very beneficial at delivering the wishes of the spouses at incapacitation or death. However, wills are often drafted with the idea that their marriage would last until death - so what happens if the couple decides to divorce?
An important aspect of estate planning is drafting a will. However, including a will does not always indicate that the legal document will serve the role it was intended to. This is especially true if a will is missing after the death of a loved one in California or elsewhere.
In a recent post, the importance of having a California living will was discussed as part of one's estate plan. The importance of doing so was brought to light recently by the tragic situation involving former NBA star Lamar Odom.
Under California law, some basic requirements must be met for a will to be valid. Anyone age 18 or over can make a will, provided that the person is mentally competent to do so. The California Probate Code makes it clear that a person is mentally competent to make a will as long as they understand the nature of what they are doing, understand what property they own and the extent of that property and know who their living spouse, parents, descendants and other potential beneficiaries are.
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.
Same-sex couples and domestic partners in California may have something to worry about as they wait to hear how the Supreme Court's rulings may determine whether Proposition 8 will go into effect. In addition to this impending landmark decision, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is under court scrutiny at the same time.
People in California may have heard an interesting and amusing story about a woman who discovered a treasure trove of $100 bills in the pockets of the clothing of an 85-year-old woman who had recently died. The woman found some $30,000 in currency in the clothing, which had been given to her by family members of the deceased.