You Can Make Your Own Will, and It Will Only Cost You Tens of Thousands of Dollars!
Right now, a top google search trending is “how to make a will”. People are realizing how quickly things change, and how mortal we are. They want to make sure that if something happens to them and they pass away, that their assets will go to the people they want. They want to make sure their kids and loved ones would be taken care of. They want to do the right thing for their loved ones and feel a sense of security.
You may have your estate planning in place, but what about your parents, your children, your employees, or your family or friends who are still at risk?
In California, it’s true that you can make your own will. California Probate Code Section 6111(a) says that a holographic will (the legal term for a will you make yourself) will be valid as long as it is signed by the testator (the legal term for the person who the will is for), and the material terms are in the testator’s handwriting. You also must have the mental capacity to write the will, (i.e. you can’t be in a coma, or experiencing dementia at that moment), and it’s best to include a date on your will, so there’s no question on whether it conflicts with a previous will you executed.
A will is great because if you do pass away, it tells a judge where you would like your assets to go. But the operative word there being “judge”.
Most people have no idea that a will does not spare your family from a long and expensive court process known as probate when you pass away! In California, our probate process typically lasts 18-24 months at a minimum; probate is open and public so anyone can see what you have; your money is not accessible to your loved ones during that time; and, here is the real kicker... probate typically costs tens of thousands of dollars, if not more! You are actually paying for this convoluted nightmare!
On top of all that, a holographic will is one of the most contested legal documents when someone dies, especially by those who were left out of your will and naturally would have inherited from you otherwise.
And finally, a will only addresses your death, and cannot designate people who can help you handle your financial and medical decisions while you are alive and if you are seriously hurt or ill. Seriously, if you are seriously ill and can’t handle your finances or make medical decisions because you’ve temporarily or permanently lost mental capacity, your family could be forced to go to court to try and get permission just to help you. Furthermore, if you are in the hospital and can’t communicate because you are sick or quarantined, your family can’t access medical information about your condition if you haven’t previously given them legal permission to act.
It’s possible that you might get seriously sick. Here is what happens without proper planning and the right legal documents in place:
- Your loved ones CANNOT pay your bills or manage your money because you haven't legally authorized them to act on your behalf;
- Your medical decisions CANNOT be made by people you know and trust because you haven't legally authorized them to act on your behalf;
- Your family CANNOT receive medical information about your medical condition under our HIPAA laws;
- Your loved ones could be forced to go to court just to get permission to act on your behalf;
- Your assets WILL go through a long and expensive court process known as probate, costing tens of thousands of dollars; and
- Your loved ones WILL NOT have a trusted advisor to turn to who can help them navigate these challenging situations, during a very surreal time in our world where help is shutting down day by day.
We don’t want this very real scenario to happen to you and your family, and we know you don’t either!
The good news is that you can absolutely formalize your wishes the right way so that your financial and medical decisions can be made by those you trust, without them having to scramble and turn to the courts; you can ensure your loved ones would never have to go through a long and expensive court process known as probate if you pass away, and that your assets will go directly and privately to who you want; and you can ensure that your loved ones have someone to turn to during this chaotic time to help them navigate these matters on your behalf.
The key is to set up a comprehensive estate plan that will actually work! Here is what a valid estate plan looks like that can help you if you are seriously ill or pass away:
- You’ll have strong financial and medical powers of attorney that completely address how your money and health should be handled in a crises and pre-authorizes people you trust to act on your behalf.
- You’ll have a revocable living trust, which is like a will but avoids probate! Your trust will provide where you want your money to go upon your death, who would raise your minor children, and who should handle your affairs. Your assets will be properly connected to your trust and go privately and quickly to your loved ones upon your death.
- You’ll have a trusted advisor to turn to who has a fiduciary duty to you to prepare your plan correctly, and who can be there for you and your family during a crises to help navigate these matters.
You may be thinking, this sounds great, but it sounds really expensive! The truth is that hiring a reputable estate planning lawyer to set up your estate plan will only cost you a small fraction of the cost of probate! Plus it completely eliminates the turmoil and frustration that comes with having to go through the court system!
I recently had a client who came to my top rated Orange County estate planning law firm because his wife was seriously ill. Of course he wished they had addressed all of these important matters before their personal crises hit, but thankfully his wife still had the mental capacity to formalize her wishes. I was able to help them set up a complete estate plan. This was so helpful to them when she was in the hospital because her husband and other trusted family members could talk with her doctors when she was in surgery or heavily medicated. Her medical decisions could be made by her husband who she trusted when she could not make them herself.
We set up a revocable living trust for this couple, so it was clear who the money would go to upon the first of them to pass away, and spare their loved ones from going through probate. In this case, the wife did end up passing away, but her husband had us to turn to at every moment. Anytime there was a hick up or glitch in what they were dealing with, he could call us for help and because we had a comprehensive estate plan in place for them, he had the authority he needed to act. This husband was so thankful because we could help him during an otherwise very difficult time.
You know, as someone who not only sets up comprehensive estate plans, but also helps people whose loved ones have passed away without any planning in place or only having a will, I can tell you the experience is night and day. I hate when I have to break it to people that they need to go to court to get financial and medical decision making powers for their sick loved one, because they didn’t set up their planning. I hate when I have to tell people they have to go through probate when a loved one has died, because they didn’t have a trust set up. And I can’t tell you how many times these loves one say to me, but I thought he or she had this in place already, or he or she was in the process of setting this up. If your medical and financial power of attorneys, will, trust, or estate plan is not fully set up and not set up right, it simply doesn’t work.
Now there is no need to panic or try to foolishly throw something together yourself. My team and I here at the Meier Law Firm are here to help you, wherever you are in California, get your planning in place asap.
We know these are tricky times, so if public or personal circumstances prevent you from meeting with us in person at our offices in Newport Beach or the San Francisco bay area, we can completely work with you virtually through Facetime, phone calls, or video chat software to set up your estate plan.
While our process typically takes 4-6 weeks, we can expedite those timelines for those in urgent need or who are ill. And, we are committed to not increasing our fees at all during this challenging time.
The Meier Law Firm is independently rated 5 stars by our community on both Yelp and Google, and I have a 10.0 superb rating on AVVO. I am also the author of the #1 best-seller, Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan and my work has been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and other national media outlets. But most significantly, I am a mom of four great kids, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. All of us here at the Meier Law Firm will look out for you and your loved ones the same way we know others are looking out for ours right now.
The time to take action is now! We can help you schedule a private and confidential planning session with us to show you what type of planning your family needs, based on your unique situation and dynamics. We are equipped to fully assist you virtually or in person. There’s absolutely no obligation or pressure whatsoever to talk with us. We truly hope we can help you like we've helped so many other California families. If you already have some form of estate planning in place that is outdated or questionable, we can review what you have with you and provide you guidance on your next best steps.
There’s no reason not to get your planning in place and get it done right. My team and I look forward to helping you through.
Laura Meier, Esq.
We can help you during the Coronavirus quarantine. Click below to schedule your free, no pressure or obligation Planning Session with a member of our team (via phone call, virtual or in person) or call our team at 949-718-0420. Safety first!