What Happens If I Only Have a Will?

Hi. This is Marc Herbert from Herbert Law Office with the Question of the week, which is what happens if I only have a will when I die? Well, in California, if you own any land or any significant accounts, chances are your executor is going to have to go to probate court to transfer title to the heirs that you chose. So that’s sort of good news and bad news. The good news is that you have some limited control in terms of naming your heirs and determining the amounts of their inheritance. The bad news is you’re going to probate court so the judge there is going to enforce what you’ve written down. He’s going to make sure that all the property is transferred immediately.

You know, any funeral directions that you’ve had or burial directions as specific or not as you were. Those are all going to be enforced. Any guardians that you nominated in your will, that’s going to be enforced. But the problem with probate court is it’s very expensive. Usually $20,000 to $30,000. It’s also very time consuming. In L.A. County, the average is 2 to 3 years right now. And if you have property in multiple states, your executor is going to have to do multiple probate to handle all that property for you. Probably worst of all is that your heirs are going to get an immediate transfer. So as soon as they’re 18 years old, they’re going to get 100% of their inheritance as ordered by the court.

And then once they get the asset, then there’s really no protection from tax consequences of inheriting land or major assets. So having a simple will is better than not having a will, because at least you have some limited control. If you pass away and you don’t have a well, then you’re pretty much subject to California’s default plan, which is complicated and sometimes ends up with heirs that you don’t want inheriting your assets or inheriting it in a way that in an amount that you don’t really want.

So for most people with land or significant assets, creating a living trust is the best way to avoid probate court and avoid those unnecessary taxes. Best of all, it gives you complete control over who your heirs are, how much they’re going to inherit, and when they’re going to inherit. If you build the trust the right way, you can actually give your heirs a little bit when they’re younger, say 21 years old, a little bit more when they’re older, say 25 years old, and maybe the rest at 30 years old or something.

So they learn to manage the assets in smaller amounts at younger ages and then hopefully learn to manage the bigger assets when they’re a little bit older. Here at Herbert Law Office. We offer a free consultation so we can talk about your specific situation, your specific goals, your specific options, and then you choose the plan that works best for you.

If you’re interested in our free consultation, just give us a call at 6612739007. Thanks a lot and have a great day.