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4 Types of Wills and Their Uses

4 Types of Wills and Their Uses

When you’re meeting with your Orange County estate planning attorney, you’re definitely going to discuss creating or updating your will. While most people imagine a will to simply be a document that describes who takes ownership of certain assets, property, or cash, a will is so much more. In fact, there are actually multiple kinds of wills that have different uses and purposes. 

Your estate planning lawyer in Orange County will not only help you understand which wills are right for you, but can also make sure they are created and executed according to California state law.  Here’s what you need to know about the four main types of wills and their uses:

What Exactly is a Will?

Broadly put, a will is a legal document that outlines your wishes about the distribution of your property and the care of your minor children when you die. If you pass on without a will, those wishes may not be followed. Things can get messy as the distribution of your estate will be determined by a judge in probate court. Your friends and family may have to spend time and money working with an Orange County probate attorney to settle your affairs.

One of the key benefits of hiring an Orange County estate planning lawyer is that you can continue your life with peace of mind. When you pass, your loved ones won’t be burdened with the stress of trying to figure out the probate system.

Multiple Kinds of Will

Wills vary in how they work and how effective they are depending on their type and your unique needs. Your Orange County living trust lawyer can help you understand which ones are right for your situation. There are four main categories of wills: 

Simple Wills

A simple will is a relatively straight-forward document that doesn’t contain any tricky clauses or stipulations. Don’t let the name fool you, though. These wills can accomplish a great deal. You get full control over which of your assets go to different people. You can distribute everything to a single person, spread it out over multiple entities - even give some or all of it to charity!

In a simple will, you can also designate someone to be the executor of your estate. This person is tasked with making sure that your wishes set forth in the will are properly carried out. They can even make decisions that aren’t explicitly covered in your will, so you’ll want to name someone you trust. In some cases, you may decide to hire an Orange County probate attorney to advise your executor or even perform that position for you.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is a trust that is written inside of a will. Some people call it a will trust or trust under will. The idea is that parts or all of your estate become part of a trust. Unlike other trusts, this trust is not created until you die. You can even create multiple testamentary trusts within a single will.

A trust is essentially a way you can provide for a minor or disabled relative or delay someone from getting their inheritance until a certain point of time. For example, you might want assets to be held in the trust until the person graduates from college or turns a certain age.

Since the testamentary trust is inside of a will, it still goes through probate after your death. In fact, the people named take control of their inheritance, the person who is tasked with carrying out the trust must go to court to show they are properly handling your estate. There are usually, of course, significant associated costs with probate that can reduce the overall amount of the inheritance.

If you’re interested in creating a trust outside of your will, there are a number of options. Most of these trusts avoid probate or have other benefits. Check with your Orange County probate attorney to learn more.

Joint Will

If multiple people create a will to leave their assets to each other, it’s called a joint will. These are common among husbands and wives and acts as an agreement that if something happens to one spouse, the other inherits the whole estate. When the surviving spouse dies, the remainder of the estate goes to a third person or multiple people named by the couple together.

Unlike a mutual will, a joint will is a single document signed by both parties. A mutual will is made up of multiple wills that are signed by all parties. Joint wills were a little more prevalent in previous years because they were cheaper to create and execute. In modern times, they are a bit more complicated. A surviving spouse is unable to change the will after their spouse dies. 

That means the surviving spouse couldn’t leave anything in that will to a new spouse, step-child, or child from a new relationship. Mutual wills have similar drawbacks and can leave your family and friends in a sticky mess--and if the beneficiary named by the couple dies prematurely, the entire estate would be subject to probate.

Some people prefer to use what is called a mirror will. This kind of will acts as a joint will, but with some changes; multiple wills are created that are almost identical. These wills have different names as the person making the will, known as the testators. It’s common for both spouses to leave everything to the other person, but there is room for other decisions. A surviving spouse can then alter their will any way they see fit.

Living Wills

A living will is different from other wills as it is not actually a last will and testament dealing with your estate. A living will is meant to explain your wishes for end-of-life medical care. If you are in a situation where you can’t speak for yourself, this document controls how your care can proceed. You can decide if and how you can be resuscitated or what kind of assistance you’ll accept. Because living wills can get complicated, meet with your Orange County living will attorney to make sure it’s completed correctly.

You might also decide to create a medical power of attorney that names another person as your medical proxy. This proxy can make decisions on your behalf and deal with situations your living will doesn’t predict. Your Orange County living will lawyer can also help you put this in motion as well.

The Right Will for Your Needs

Knowing which kind of will is best for you is no easy decision. There are a variety of factors that make one better than another or make more sense for your situation. Fortunately, you are not on your own in planning for your future. An Orange County estate planning attorney can help you determine your best course of action. Moreover, your estate planning lawyer can help with the overarching needs of your estate beyond the will.Call or message us for your free consultation today and see how an estate planning attorney can help you.

Maria Parker assists her clients plan for their end of life health care wishes and the ultimate distribution of their wealth after death. She personally experienced the importance of planning at the time her father passed away.

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