This is the next post in my series on the need for an estate plan in San Bernardino or elsewhere in California. My last article discussed the importance of keeping one’s estate plan up to date. If you fail to update your will, or the terms of your Trust, then your heirs may find themselves in a situation where certain assets fall within California’s intestate succession laws. This can result in one’s wealth being distributed in a way that is not consistent with one’s wishes. By consulting with an estate planning attorney, you can help ensure that such issues do not arise. In this article, I will be discussing the need to avoid wills or trusts which are based on “self-help” forms. If you have questions, then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
There are many forms of pre-prepared documents which can be purchased at various office supply stores or through websites. These documents may include a pre-formatted will, trust, or power of attorney. It is understandable that many would prefer a “fill in the blank form” over paying the cost of an attorney. The issues which can arise from using such forms, however, can result in costs which far outweigh those associated with retaining counsel in the first place.
The first issue with using some type of self-help packet is the forms themselves. While relatively easy to use, it is important to understand that a “do it yourself” will is meant to apply to most people in most situations. This means that if you have some type of an issue which falls outside of the norm then using such a form may result in your unique issue not being covered by the will. As an example, if you own a business, are involved in complicated real estate transactions, or have other valuable assets then you may be in a situation which the pre-prepared forms are not meant to cover. This could result in your will not properly dealing with the dissolution or passing on of your business, in your real estate being tied up in litigation, or in other issues. By retaining a lawyer, you help to ensure that your will is going to be specifically drafted to fit your specific circumstances.
Another important issue is that using a self-help form means that one does not receive legal advice about their situation. When filling out a pre-prepared packet a person may not realize how the law operates as to certain issues and they may have circumstances which create legal problems that they do not foresee. An experienced estate planning attorney will use your initial consultation to gain an understanding of your situation. They will then begin the process of establishing an estate plan which specifically fits your circumstances and ensures that things are handled as efficiently as possible.
California law provides for a Statutory Will Form. It must be properly completed and executed for it to be valid in California. While the form is available for use, it is highly recommended that one seek legal advice prior to using this form.
I would strongly suggest that San Bernardino residents contact an estate planning attorney instead of relying on a do-it-yourself will or estate packet. If you require assistance then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer. We also service Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, Victorville, Rialto, Hesperia, Chino, Upland, Apple Valley, Redlands, Highland, Colton, Yucaipa, Montclair, elsewhere in the Inland Empire, as well as Los Angeles.