Park LaBrea News/Beverly Press, By Stephen Kramer Esq.
WHAT IS A WILL?
A will is a traditional manner of naming who you want to handle your final affairs (your executor) and who you want to receive your assets after you die (your beneficiaries). Unfortunately, your will controls only the assets that are in your name alone. It will not affect assets held in joint ownership, such as joint tenancy. It also does not control assets with beneficiary designations, like your IRA, retirement benefits or life insurance policies. Assets that are controlled by your will, will have to go through a court controlled process called “probate”.
What is Probate?
Probate is the name given to the California court-supervised process which handles the administration and subsequent distribution of your assets pursuant to the terms and desires expressed in your will. In short, probate means the process by which your assets are gathered, used to pay debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and then distributed to the beneficiaries in your will.
While probate is a clear and orderly process, it can be unnecessarily time consuming and expensive. In larger counties like Los Angeles, the process will customarily consume at least six months, if not longer, and legal and executor fees may well be greater than comparable services rendered in the administration of a revocable trust.