Wills

There are many strategies and tools one can utilize for one’s estate plan, but one of the most important documents one must have on file is a Last Will and Testament. Without a will established, you will be considered to have died “intestate,” meaning state law will determine how your assets will be distributed. It also means your loved ones will have to go through an arduous and expensive process known as probate, which can be extremely costly depending on your situation.

Setting up your last will and testament is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan, but it’s essential if you want to ensure all your assets and wealth are protected. In addition, it’s also vital you understand the laws surrounding wills in California. If you make a mistake or omit something in your will, California courts may deem it invalid. The best way to avoid this is to hire an experienced and skilled estate planning lawyer to assist with drafting your will.

Will and Probate Attorneys, Ventura CA

The key to drafting an effective and efficient will is to ensure it’s customized to your unique circumstances. The probate lawyers at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. can sit down with you and discuss your objectives in detail. From there, they can then craft a will best designed to suit your interests and wishes as well as meet the requirements of the California Probate Code. Don’t wait another moment to prepare for your future and call the attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd..

Call Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. today at (877) 585-1885 to get answers for your probate and estate planning needs and set up your first consultation. Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. has offices in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Westlake Village, Valencia, Santa Barbara, and Bakersfield, California.

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What is a Last Will and Testament?

Most of us understand the purpose a will serves from just watching television or consuming other forms of media. In simplest terms, a will is a legal document that takes effect upon death and is used as an instrument to direct the disposition of your property. In California, wills trigger probate unless the gross value of your estate is less than $166,250.00.

A will can be used in conjunction with a living trust. When this occurs it’s often referred to as a “pour over will.” The reason for this is that any assets that weren’t titled in your trust can be transferred to your trust via the terms of the “pour over will.” For the will to be effective, it must state that all assets not titled to your trust must be transferred to your trust upon death.


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What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Although we recommend having a full comprehensive integrated estate plan, if you are unable to it’s imperative you at the least leave a will. Failure to leave a will in time before you pass could have devastating consequences for your estate and your family. If you die without a will, the probate court will consider you to have died “intestate.” Essentially, it means Probate Court will decide who will administer your estate and who will become guardian of any shared minor children. Listed below are some potential consequences that may occur if you die without leaving a will behind for your estate.

  • The person chosen to administer your estate is inappropriate and makes major mistakes
  • The court chooses an unfit guardian for your children or dependent elderly parents
  • Your children may be unable to receive any inheritance until they are 18– or worse, they potentially would receive all inherited assets at age 18.
  • The beneficiaries are not people you would have selected if you had the choice

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The Issue with Handwritten Wills

While these are heavily discouraged by estate planning experts, you do have the option to handwrite your own will. These types of wills are often referred to as “holographic” wills and are considered valid even if there are no witnesses. Holographic wills can be admitted into probate, but it’s an incredibly risky move.

If a holographic will is difficult to interpret, then it can be easily challenged due to the non-legal language used in the document. This is especially true if no witnesses were present during the signing and the competence of the person writing the will is called into question. Also, an informally drafted will may not address all issues regarding the estate. The casual language of the document could actually create more problems than solutions if the writer isn’t clear in regard to where assets should go or how they’re to be distributed.


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How Much Does Probate Cost in California?

A will is necessary in determining where your assets go, but it could hurt your loved ones in the end. If you only have a will in place, your estate would still have to go through Probate if the value of your assets exceeds $166,250 at the time of your death. The issue with Probate isn’t only the fact that your will can be challenged, but also how expensive the process is.

The fees listed below are the statutory fees used to compensate attorneys and executors in probate cases for various sized estates. If both the attorney and the executor receive a fee (the most common occurrence), the amount paid will be double that shown below.

SIZE OF ESTATE STATUTORY FEE
$150,000 $6,000
$200,000 $7,000
$300,000 $9,000
$400,000 $11,000
$500,000 $13,000
$600,000 $15,000
$700,000 $17,000
$800,000 $19,000
$900,000 $21,000
$1,000,000 $23,000
$2,000,000 $33,000

 

Estates are appraised by “probate referees” who determine the fair market value of the assets. The fair market value does not deduct for mortgages or other debt, which can result in an appraisal of the property that is higher than the equity that the deceased person owned in the property. Probate referees are appointed by the state controller’s office and they receive a fee of 0.1 % of the assets appraised.

In probates that are complicated by lawsuits or tax problems, the attorney and executor can ask the judge to approve fees that are higher than those set by state law. In addition to the “statutory” fees, there are costs for court filing fees, appraisal fees, publication costs, and miscellaneous fees charged by the county. A typical estate might incur $1,000 to 2,000 in court costs and other mandated fees, as well as so-called “extraordinary” fees which are derived from a sale of property; tax-related matters; and litigation.


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Additional Resources

California Laws Concerning Probate – Visit the official website for the California Code to learn more about their law regarding probate. Access the site to learn more about the process, how market value is determined in probate, how to challenge a will in probate, and more.

Find Probate Court Forms– Visit the official website for The Judicial Branch of California’s Courts to gain access to important forms for probate you may need. Access the site to find a petition for probate, proof of holographic instrument, and other important documents you may need.


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California Lawyer for Last Will and Testaments | Ventura County

Having a will is vital if you’d like to have a comprehensive estate plan that addresses all your interests. If you’re looking to draft a will and are in need of guidance, call Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd.. Each of our attorneys have over 30 years of estate planning experience they can put to use for your situation. Don’t wait another moment to get your affairs in order and protect your family’s interests. Contact Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. today to learn your legal options.

Call today at (877) 585-1885 to set up your first consultation free of charge. Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. accepts clients throughout California and has offices in Ventura County, Kern County, Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara County, and San Luis Obispo County.


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