Making a will is a good way to ensure that your property will be distributed to your family, friends and organizations of your choice after you die. A will is also an excellent way to nominate guardians for your minor children and the money you intend to leave them.
If you do not have assets worth more than $150,000.00, a will can do the job. If, however, you own assets worth $150,000.00 or more your estate will probably end up in Probate Court unless you create a living trust.
There are a few legal requirements that control who can make a valid will such as age and mental competence. The will itself must meet some technical requirements. In some states, handwritten wills – called holographic wills – are legally valid. A handwritten will is often found to be invalid in the California court system. A properly drafted, signed and witnessed will is much less vulnerable to challenge by anyone claiming it was forged or fabricated.
If you die without a will or living trust your money and property will be divided and distributed to family members by your state’s intestate succession laws. These laws divide all property between the relatives who are considered closest to you according to a set formula, and completely exclude friends and charities.