In this article we deal with one of the most fundamental estate planning tools – a Will.

What happens if you do not have a Will?

Every state has its own set of rules and processes for people who pass away without a Will.  If you pass away without a Will in California, you are deemed to have passed “intestate.”  California law provides for the accumulation of your assets and debts, a satisfaction of your debts and the passing of your remaining value to your blood relatives. This is done through the court Probate process.  If you are in agreement with such, then you don’t need a Will.  Understand that the laws also provide for court approved fees for attorneys.  Having a Will does not always bypass Probate, and there are certain instances where your heirs should elect to Probate your estate, but a Will gives them the first tool necessary to follow your direction to pass along your assets as you desire.

What is a Will?

A Will is essentially your voice from beyond the grave, telling your survivors and heirs what you want to do with your possessions.  A Will is generally defined as a document by which a person directs the disposition of his or her property and assets, which takes effect after that person dies.  You can change your Will during your lifetime.

In most instances, the average person will need only a Simple Will.  A Simple Will describes who you are, and identifies your beneficiaries, whether that is family, friends, charities or other.  The Will generally appoints one or more Executors, being the people that you trust to be legally responsible for making sure your directions are followed.  The Executor is also frequently called your Personal Representative and there are frequently multiple or sequential representatives identified.  And finally, a Simple Will describes your wishes with respect to distribution of your assets.

If you are motivated to act and get more information about Estate Planning, Trust Administration or Probate needs, reach out to the Borton Petrini, LLP office nearest you.

Fred Begun


Fred Begun is Senior Counsel in our San Jose office of Borton Petrini, LLP.  He specializes in Family Law and Estate Planning.




Estate Planning in California

Legal Disclaimer: This article is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.