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Types of Wills – Santa Cruz Estate Planning

What is a will?

A will is a document that explains who should inherit your property and care for your minor or disabled children after you die. A will must be signed by you—the testator—and at least two other witnesses in order for it to be legally binding.

Should I hire a lawyer to draft my will?

It is always advisable to consult a lawyer when drafting your will if you wish to prevent subsequent legal problems. An experienced Santa Cruz attorney can help you craft an will that:

  • Presents a clear plan for the distribution of your property
  • Does not contain technical errors that may invalidate your will
  • Is legally binding
  • Is worded in such a way to help your loved ones avoid probate court costs
  • Overrides any earlier wills

Types of wills

The type of will you choose to have should suit your exact needs and be based on your individual circumstances.  You could choose to have a:

  • Holographic will. A holographic will is written in the handwriting of the testator and signed. It does not require a lawyer or witness, and is therefore free, but may be contested and held up in probate court. The state of California recognizes holographic wills.
  • Simple will. A simple will provides for the outright distribution of an uncomplicated estate but is not appropriate for larger, more involved estates. Because it can be drafted by the testator, a simple will may include technical errors that could delay distribution and expose heirs to gift and estate taxes in probate court.
  • Joint will. A joint will is made together by two spouses.  It leaves all property to one when the other passes and also stipulates who inherits the property after the second spouse dies. A joint will often leads to problems if the second spouse remarries.
  • Living will. Not really a will in the same sense as those listed above—in that it does not distribute property—a living will lays down guidelines for your medical care should you be incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. A living will is beneficial because it gives you and your family control over life prolonging medical treatments during your final days.

How a lawyer can help

Regardless of the type of will you choose, it is always best to work with an attorney.  Doing so ensures your wishes are stated clearly, concisely, and in legally accurate language in accordance with California estate planning laws.
A lawyer in Santa Cruz can help you draft a will that is legally binding and likely to hold up in court should a dispute arise. In the long run, a will prepared by a lawyer saves your family time, money and stress as they cope with your passing.


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