What happens to your estate when you die?

What happens to your soul once your body ceases to function is a philosophical question, but your body is either buried or cremated.  The end. But what about all your assets? You know – your stuff? Those things go to the living you leave behind and how you prepare for your final moment determines where everything goes.

To understand estates and estate planning, we must understand some terms:

Will: An instrument or declaration by which one directs the disposition of one’s property after death.  A will is also called a testament. In the olden days testaments were for personal property and wills were for real estate. It’s no longer required to say “Will and Testament”, but many people still do.

Intestate:  Of or relating to a person who has died without a valid will. How do we distribute someone’s estate if he or she dies without a will?

Testate:  Having left a valid will at death. How do we distribute the estate when you have a will?

Heir: A person who, under the laws of intestacy, is entitled to receive an intestate decedent’s property.

Presumptive Heir: A person who would inherit from another if the latter died intestate at that moment.

 Heir Apparent: One who certainly will inherit when and if another dies intestate, needing only to survive the intestate.


How Do Courts Handle Your Estate?

When you die, courts will attempt to honor the wishes of the decedent as to how he or she wants the estate distributed. The decedent is no longer with us; therefore, we may need extrinsic evidence to determine his or her wishes. Without any evidence (the will), courts are going to look to statutes because the law will make presumptions when there isn’t a will, the will is silent, or the will is vague. The statute is the default. The rules are codified because it is such an old area of the law.

So, if you don’t want a court dividing up your estate, plan your estate by meeting with Louis Pacella Attorneys. We are licensed professionals that write your will, you are the testator, and when you die your estate becomes our client. Our job is to advise the personal representative how to carry out the wishes of you the testator because a poorly written will can be contested by your family members.

Destroy It Yourself Will

Many people try to do their own will, but many times this at home will doesn’t meet the statutory requirements of a will and may be deemed invalid. For example, in order for your grandmother’s handwritten will to considered a formal will, it must be in writing, signed by the testator, signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after he or she witnessed either the signing of the will. There are other requirements which a professional estate planner can explain, but know that there are specific rules to the construction of a will. In too many cases, wills are contested due to improper execution and/or witnessing; and/or no testamentary intent – meaning your will is just a letter.

Does A Will Control Everything?

Actually, no. A will cannot trump Joint Tenancy, Tenancy in Common or things Controlled by Contract such as: Life Insurance Policies A contract between the insurance company and the decedent, IRA’s, 401(k)’s, Annuities, and Anything that has a beneficiary designation and a contract associated with it. You owe it to yourself to avoid potential pitfalls of wills and their execution. Can you see your family squabbling over your assets after you die? It happens, all the time.

Louis Pacella Serves Calabasas and California

If you are considering a well thought out long-term estate plan, please contact us today. We are committed to your comfort and to designing a plan that works to protect you and your loved ones’ interests and addresses all your goals.

For a confidential and personal Free Initial Consultation with Calabasas Estate Planning lawyer, Louis Pacella, please call 818-616-8827. If you are unable to come to our law office in Calabasas, we are happy to meet you in your home, the hospital, a nursing home, or another location. Everyone deserves the chance to get quality estate planning services regardless of illness, mobility issues, or another issue.