Do I need an estate planning lawyer to write my will in California?

Preparing a will and engaging in estate planning activities may not be the most pleasant of tasks.

Posted on December 13, 2021 by Alex Gauthier
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However, it's extremely important if you want to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. Not writing a will leaves the state responsible for the distribution of your assets. This means that the line of inheritance is determined by the government, irrespective of your wishes, and any assets you wished to leave to charity or close friends will go to your direct heirs instead. That’s why a good estate plan—which includes a solid will—is so crucial to ensuring your loved ones receive the inheritances you’ve determined for them.

Nonetheless, 68% of Americans have reported not having a will. The best time to write your will was yesterday. The second-best time is today. And despite popular preconceptions, you don’t need an estate lawyer to write your will.

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Why You Don’t Need an Estate Lawyer To Write a Will

Making a will that is recognized by the probate court in California does not require the assistance of expert legal professionals. Of course, you should inform yourself as to what can leave a will vulnerable to disputes, and ensure that you don’t create opportunities for misinterpretation that could lead to conflict between beneficiaries during probate. The conflict between beneficiaries can lead to a long, expensive probate process that can last for years. As such, it’s understandable that some may want to get a professional lawyer involved when drafting their will.

Nonetheless, as long as your will meets the legal requirements set forth by the state of California, you could write it yourself on a roll of toilet paper (although we don’t recommend this). There are also plenty of free or low-cost online services that help you draft a will, or experienced partners like ClearEstate that’ll walk you through the process and ensure your will is airtight.

What to Keep in Mind When Drafting a Will

Have an Idea of What You Own

You'll need to complete a thorough inventory of all your assets so that you know what you own, and can decide who receives what. This also involves gathering any documentation that proves your ownership of them.

Recording Any Debts

Regardless of whether you want to pay your debts or not, the state will ensure that your assets are used to clear them anyway. Taking your debts into account gives you a better idea of the actual value of your estate.

Naming an Estate Executor

An estate executor is someone who you trust to be responsible for paying your debts and distributing your assets according to your wishes after you pass. In general, an estate executor is a trusted family member that is both competent and able enough to undertake the task. An estate executor is usually named in the will, and you should ensure that the person you’ve chosen is aware of your choice and prepared for the responsibility.

Ensure the Will is Legally Binding

The general requirements for a legally binding will are as follows:

  • The written document must exist as a physical copy;
  • It must be signed by the person writing the will;
  • That person must be at least 18 years old and “of sound mind”;
  • Two witnesses (who are over 18) who have seen you sign the will must also sign the will

Estate Planning in California

If you're wondering whether it's necessary to hire an estate lawyer in California, the simple answer is no. In addition to saving yourself a small fortune in fees, you’ll be able to take control of the process yourself and be empowered in knowing you’re taking your estate planning into your own hands. Get in touch with ClearEstate for a free consultation to know more about how we can help.