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A will is an estate planning document that among other things allows an individual to pass assets to beneficiaries after death Those who do not have a will have their assets distributed in accordance with California intestacy law. It may also be possible to name a guardian in the will for any minor children the testator may have.

An executor should be named who will oversee the estate according to state law or any other instructions that are left for that person. Wills are only applicable to assets that do not have a beneficiary designation. They may also not cover any assets that are held outside of an estate. In the event that an individual has a trust, the instructions provided in that trust are to be followed regardless of what the will states.

Other assets that aren’t covered by a will include the cash value of a life insurance policy or the money remaining inside a retirement plan. Those who are married are entitled to 50 percent of any joint assets acquired during the marriage. The other half belongs to the spouse and cannot be transferred or gifted to another party without his or her consent.

Individuals who are interested in creating an estate plan may wish to consult with an attorney. Counsel may be able to explain more about the benefits of a living trust or will. The attorney may also be able to review any existing documents to ensure that they are valid and still meet the individual’s needs. In some cases, an attorney may keep a copy of a will, trust or any other document for safekeeping and easy access if they are ever needed.