Many people in California excuse their lack of a will by claiming that they do not care what happens to their possessions after they die. Although there may be some level of truth to this, most people certainly care about their loved ones and the effects of handling an estate. Here are just some of the problems that can arise when estate planning is overlooked.
In the absence of a will that dictates how an estate should be divvied up, the laws of intestacy take over. This process doles out inheritances based on relationships and how closely related a person is to the deceased. For those who do not have many surviving family members, this could mean that their estate passes to an unknown and distant relative. Those who are estranged from certain family members -- such as parents or siblings -- might have a sizeable chunk of their estate go to someone for whom they no longer care.
A will can handle much more than just the tangible assets of an estate. Parents can use wills to outline who will take on guardianship of their minor children, which can ensure that they receive the most competent care possible in the event of an unexpected death. In the absence of such directions a judge will decide who will act as the child's guardian, and while most courts do a sufficient job at choosing a qualified guardian, it is not always who a parent might have chosen.
Whether someone has minor children, estranged family members or perhaps even a long-time, un-married partner, estate planning can provide invaluable protections in California. Much of those protections extend beyond physical assets. Ultimately, a comprehensive will can ease the difficult process of combing through a person's estate.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, "What Happens When You Don't Leave a Will", Geoff Williams, Oct. 24, 2017