This page provides information on making an estate plan in California, including applicable state laws. If you are a Californian interested in making a will, living trust, power of attorney, living will or have questions about making a California estate plan, this article provides an overview of important issues to consider when planning your estate.
California Will Form
California has a statutory will form that may be used to make a very basic will. It is set forth in California Probate Code Sections 6240 through 6243. For information on this California will form, go to State Will Forms. The California statutory will form is a fill in the blank form that does not allow you to make any changes. It is a simple will that may not meet your needs. Only an attorney can properly draft a will and other estate planning documents that will take into consideration all the issues unique to your estate. A
statutory will form should only be used if you cannot have your will prepared by a lawyer. Do not use the California will form if you are not domiciled in California.If you are concerned that one or more of your heirs may want to take legal action to dispute the provisions of your will or trust, you may want to consult a lawyer about steps you can take to ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes. Your attorney may suggest specific language be included in your estate planning documents, such as a no-contest clause or similar types of provisions. See
California No-Contest Clauses. You may also want to ask your attorney about the benefits of using self-proving will forms when making a will.In addition to making a will, there are other estate planning documents you will need to complete your estate plan. These include funeral instructions, letters to the guardian of your children or caretaker of your pets, and a letter of instruction to your executor. For additional forms you can use to make an estate plan, go to free estate plan forms.
Execution Requirements for California Wills
The execution requirements to make a valid California will are set forth in California Probate Code Sections 6110 through 6113. The requirements for a holographic will are set forth in California Probate Code Section 6111. See types of wills.
Estate Planning and Your Spouse
California is a community property state. If you are married, keep your spouse's community property rights in mind when deciding how to distribute your estate. This is important because it may impact bequests you wish to make in a will.If you die without a will, the laws of intestate succession determine who has a right to inherit from your estate. If you want to leave certain assets to someone other than your spouse in a will or trust, consult an attorney about your spouse's community property rights and how to achieve your estate planning goals. Related:
A Surviving Spouse's Right to an Elective Share of the Estate.
When a person domiciled in California dies without a valid will, the estate passes to his or her
legal heirs under the laws of intestate succession. Legal heirs typically include relatives such as the surviving spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. For details on what various heirs are entitled to inherit under the laws of intestate succession in California, refer to California Probate Code Sections 6400 through 6414. See our state laws page for more information.
Requirements for California Trusts
The provisions for making a valid California trust are set forth in California Probate Code Sections 15200 through 15212. As of the date of this article, California has not adopted the Uniform Trust Code. The statutory provisions on changing, revoking, and terminating a California trust can be found in Sections 15400 through 15414 of the California Probate Code. For an overview of estate planning trusts, go to Types of Trusts.
Will Your CA Estate be Subject to Probate?
An important consideration when making an estate plan is whether your estate is likely to be subject to formal probate or whether it can be settled informally at less expense. Under California law, smaller estates may be settled without probate by using an affidavit procedure in certain circumstances. See Probate of Small Estates.If the gross value of your real and personal property in California is no greater than 150,000 dollars, your estate may qualify for the small estates exception pursuant to California Probate Code Section 13100. To review the statutes applicable to administering a small estate without formal probate or letters of administration, see California Probate Code Sections 13000 through 13116.Only a lawyer familiar with your unique circumstances can advise on whether your estate is likely to be subject to probate in California. For tips on finding an affordable and qualified estate planning lawyer, see finding an attorney.
Estate Planning and Your Health Care
Part of making an estate plan is executing legal documents to provide instructions on what should happen if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions about medical treatment and related issues. The legal documents used to provide these instructions may include advance health care directives, a living will, and power of attorney for health care. For information on the statutory form of California Advance Health Care Directive, go to California Living Will.
Estate Planning and Your Finances
Your estate planning documents should not only provide for what happens when you die, they should also make provisions for what happens if you are unable to manage your financial affairs due to a medical emergency, terminal illness or decline in health. A durable financial power of attorney is an estate planning document that appoints an agent to handle certain matters if you lose the capacity to manage your own finances. This is important to make sure your bills are paid, expenses for your care are paid, etc. See Granting Power of Attorney.To review the California Power of Attorney Law and related state statutes on making a durable financial power of attorney, go to California Probate Code Sections 4000 through 4545. For information on using California's Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney, refer to California Probate Code Sections 4400 through 4465.
CA Estate Planning and Your Pets
To ensure all pets or animals in your care are provided for in the event of your sudden death or disability, you can easily execute estate planning documents to set aside money to provide for your pets and name a pet guardian. One of the best ways to include animal companions in your California estate plan is by creating a pet trust. The requirements for pet trusts are set forth in California Probate Code Section 15212. When making a pet trust, it needs to be coordinated with other documents in your estate plan, such as your will and any other
estate planning trusts you make. Have your pet trust prepared by an attorney familiar with California law.
If you are planning to leave an inheritance to a family member or if you are an heir to a decedent's estate, you may be concerned about state inheritance taxes. Currently, the State of California does not have an inheritance tax.However, other state taxes may apply. Check with your tax preparer to determine if any taxes are owed on an inheritance, gift or transfer from a decedent.
INFORMATION ON THIS SITE, INCLUDING ARTICLES, ESTATE PLANNING FORMS, AND THE ESTATE PLANNING BLOG, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL, FINANCIAL OR TAX ADVICE. Pennyborn.com is not a law firm and is not a substitute for a lawyer. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Information on this site is for educational purposes only and may not be accurate, complete or up to date.
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