Affordable Will Preparation in Sacramento, CA
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Make a will without a lawyer in California
California offers a straightforward process for creating wills, which makes it possible for our Legal Document Assistants to draft legitimate wills without the help of a lawyer. The state’s probate code outlines the requirements for a valid will, which include being at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and having two witnesses present.
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Frequently asked questions
A will, sometimes referred to as a testament, is a legal document that outlines the distribution of a person’s assets after passing. A will allows the testator (the person making the will) to name an executor, designate beneficiaries, assign guardians for minor children, and specify any additional wishes. A will must meet specific legal requirements, such as the testator being at least 18 years old and mentally competent, and having the will signed by a minimum of two impartial witnesses.
When someone passes away without a valid will, intestacy laws govern the distribution of the deceased’s estate to their legal heirs in a predetermined sequence. Generally, the deceased’s assets are allocated among their spouse, children, and other surviving family members. The estate may eventually revert to the state if no relatives are found. It is important to note that intestacy laws might not reflect the deceased’s wishes, so having a valid will ensures their preferences are honored.
Wills and living trusts are both instruments for estate planning, but they serve different purposes. The main difference is how assets are managed and distributed after the individual’s death.
A will takes effect only after the testator’s death and outlines how assets should be distributed. However, this distribution requires probate, a court-supervised process that can be lengthy. Additionally, a will becomes public record upon probate, making the estate’s details accessible.
On the other hand, a living trust is established during the individual’s lifetime and can be used to manage assets while they are alive and after their passing. The individual, known as the grantor, transfers their assets into the trust, and a trustee is appointed to manage these assets to benefit designated beneficiaries. One primary advantage of a living trust is that it avoids probate, allowing for faster and more private distribution of assets. A Sacramento trust attorney offers increased flexibility in asset management, including provisions for incapacity.
In California, notarizing a will is not legally required to be considered valid. However, adhering to the legal requirements for executing wills is crucial. According to the California Probate Code, a will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two impartial individuals.
Though notarization is not mandatory, including a “self-proving affidavit” can be helpful. A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement by the testator and witnesses, signed before a notary public, affirming the proper execution of the will. This optional step can speed up the probate process, eliminating the need for witnesses to testify in court to confirm the will’s execution.
As long as they have the necessary mental capacity, a testator can alter or revoke their will at any time before their death. A will can be revoked by a subsequent written document or through a physical act, such as destroying, tearing, canceling, or obliterating the will with the intent to revoke it.
To change a will, the testator can create a codicil, a separate document that modifies, adds to, or revokes provisions within the existing will. A codicil must adhere to the formalities outlined by the applicable state law, including being in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two impartial individuals. It is essential to ensure that the language in the codicil is unambiguous to prevent potential disputes during probate.
Alternatively, a testator may revoke their current will and create a new one that reflects their updated preferences. The new will should contain a clause explicitly revoking all prior wills. As with the initial will, the testator must follow the formalities specified in the corresponding probate code for the new will to be considered valid.
Probate is a court-supervised legal procedure that manages the estate of a deceased individual, ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their will or, if there is no will, following intestacy laws. The main goals of an authorized probate lawyer include validating the decedent’s will, appointing an executor, inventorying estate assets, settling the decedent’s debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the designated heirs.
The probate process begins with filing a petition with the appropriate probate court, usually in the county where the decedent lived. Once the court appoints an executor, they take on the responsibility of managing the estate, which involves providing notice to creditors, filing tax returns, and resolving any outstanding debts. After completing these tasks, the executor distributes the remaining assets according to the will’s provisions.
Although probate is necessary for many estates, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and public. For this reason, some individuals may explore alternative estate planning strategies, such as trusts, to minimize the impact of probate on their beneficiaries.
A will executor, also known as a personal representative of the estate, is a person appointed to manage the assets of a deceased person’s estate. The executor’s job is to ensure that the will’s terms are executed in compliance with the deceased’s wishes.
After the testator’s death, the executor’s responsibilities include securing the deceased’s assets, paying any outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. The executor is also responsible for initiating the probate process, which involves filing the will with the appropriate court and obtaining letters of testamentary, which grant the executor legal authority to act on the estate’s behalf.
Executors are held to a fiduciary duty, meaning they must act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Breaching this duty can result in legal consequences, including personal liability for any losses the estate suffers.
California does not impose an inheritance tax at the state level. However, California residents should be aware of the federal estate tax, which may apply in certain situations.
The federal estate tax is a tariff on the transfer of assets at death, paid by the estate itself, rather than the beneficiaries. The federal estate tax exemption is over $12 million per individual, meaning estates valued below this threshold are generally not subject to the tax. This exemption is subject to change, and it is essential to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to understand potential tax implications.
Although California does not have an inheritance tax, it is essential to note that other states may have such taxes in place. Suppose a California resident inherits property from someone who lives in a state with an inheritance tax. In that case, they may be liable for paying that tax, even though they reside in California.
The cost of creating a will can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the individual’s estate and the method used to draft the document. Several options are available for drafting a will, each with its associated costs.
Individuals may choose to work with an estate planning attorney. The cost for attorney-drafted wills can range from $800 to $1,500, depending on the complexity of the estate and the experience of the lawyer.
Our estate planning professionals can also help you create a valid will without expensive attorney fees. We can provide peace of mind by ensuring the will complies with California law and effectively addresses the individual’s unique needs. Our flexible rates to prepare a will range from $400 to $600 per person.