The United States features 50 separate states, in addition to the federal district and 14 territories. Despite being a single country united under one flag, local laws can wildly vary from state to state. In some states, there are laws specifically against training a bear to wrestle (Alabama). In other states, a liquor store cannot sell chilled soda – but can sell it at room temperature (Indiana). In California, eating frogs is okay, but only if they did not die in a frog-jumping contest.
There are many ridiculous laws that would make most people do a double-take, including the residents of the state in question. Often, the weirdest laws are drafted to address the aftermath of a certain scandal or incident– so behind every ridiculous law is an equally ridiculous story.
Yet aside from the more obvious and glaring differences between local laws, states also feature a wide array of more nuanced differences on various topics, from car insurance and divorce, to inheritance and estate planning. If you wish to draft a last will and testament for yourself, it is important to ensure that you know what your state’s requirements are – and how they might differ from other states, in case you ever feel like moving.
Some people are not particularly prone to staying rooted in the same state for very long. There are a variety of reasons to move from state-to-state, from job opportunities to new relationships or to simply escape bad memories. But the question is: if you created your will in state A, is it valid in state B?
We have mentioned that state laws are different – yet if you have drafted a legally-valid will in whatever state you were in at the time, chances are it will be valid if you move. There are still things to take into consideration. For one, some states require that your executor – the personal representative in charge of overseeing and administrating the will – reside in the state in which you pass away. Which means that if your chosen personal representative is a relative in another state, the probate court may appoint someone else.
Another consideration to make is that a will must be testified by witnesses to be considered valid to a probate court. If your witnesses are in another state, they will have to travel to your state to confirm the will. The smartest thing to do is to consult a local estate planning professional and seek advice on whether to amend your will – and how. Do not forget that while these documents are meant to outlive you, they too have expiration dates. Consider updating your estate plan at least once a year, as well as whenever a life-changing event occurs.
There are six basic requirements for creating a last will and testament in the state of California. They are as follows: The testator (creator of the will) must be at least 18 years old.
Although oral wills are not valid, and a will must be written, California will recognize both holographic wills (handwritten wills) and California Statutory Wills (template or fill-in-the-blank wills). If a will is written, signed by the testator or their equivalent, and witnessed by at least two people, it is likely to be valid. However, creating a will in California requires that you make a few other state-specific considerations.
There are three major things to consider when making estate plans in California. One is the limit for expedited probate, the second is how intestate laws function in California, and the third is how inheritance taxes work.
California allows estates of less than $150,000 in total value to go through an expedited probate process, essentially eliminating a lot of the hassle associated with the inheritance process. Like many other states, intestate in California determines that when a person dies, half of what they own goes to their spouse, while the other half goes to their next of kin, starting with the children. In the event they are unmarried or widowed, all of what they own transfers to the next of kin.
Finally, California does not have state estate taxes. Federal estate taxes are still valid, but there is no inheritance tax or additional local estate tax. Because inherited property is not a usual form of income, there is no income tax on inherited parts of an estate, either. An estate may still be subject to creditors, unless an estate plan takes precautions for asset protection.
There are many arguments for why a living trust should be drafted professionally, and polished with the help of someone who has years of experience in matters of estate planning. However, the argument could be made that for a simpler document like a last will and testament, the need for experience and nuance is not quite as high, correct? Not necessarily.
Like a living trust, creating a last will and testament yourself with a few weeks of research is not the same as going to an estate planning professional and asking for help in the creation of a will. While you might be tempted to save some upfront costs by making your own will, there are quite a few arguments against doing so, even if you are a professional lawyer in a field other than inheritance or estate planning.
Founded in 1975 by L. Rob Werner and serving California for over 48 years, our dedicated attorneys are available for clients, friends, and family members to receive the legal help they need and deserve. You can trust in our experience and reputation to help navigate you through your unique legal matters.
Whether you need help creating a living trust or navigating probate, our living trust law firm's compassionate team of estate planning lawyers and probate lawyers are here to help you and ready to answer your questions.
Our goal is to make your case as easy as possible for you. Hiring a lawyer can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. From the moment you contact our firm, through the final resolution of your case, our goal is to make the process easy and understandable. We cannot change the fact that probate is a long and complicated process, but through our Werner Law Firm Difference, we strive to go out of our way to keep you informed of your case through every step of the way. We are constantly refining our processes and procedures for a more streamlined and calm client experience. Our goal is to have you feel like a burden was lifted from your shoulders, and that we made the whole process an easy one
If you're dealing with a legal matter, we urge you to schedule a free initial appointment today and join the many satisfied clients who have contacted Werner Law Firm.
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