Wills and trusts can help ensure that your belongings and assets are distributed and managed according to your wishes after your death. An attorney or financial advisor can help you determine your next steps.


A will is a legal document detailing how to distribute one’s property after death. Those who don’t have a will die intestate, and California law determines the distribution of assets. The probate court governs this process. Individuals must be competent when their wills are drawn up and may make changes to them as long as they remain competent.

Basic components of a will include:

  • Listing of beneficiaries—people, charities, foundations, etc.
  • Gifts to specific beneficiaries
  • Creation of trusts
  • Name of the executor of the estate, as well as a successor in case the executor becomes unavailable
  • Name of guardian for minor children or dependent adults
  • Any special desires you may have for particular items or monies

When creating your will, consider:

  • Do you need a trust for a spouse or other dependents?
  • How will your assets be divided?
  • Are charitable gifts a consideration?
  • Who should be named executor of the estate?
  • What are the tax considerations?
  • Who will be guardian of any minor children or dependent adults?

A trust is a legal arrangement in which you grant control of your property to a trust, which is administered by a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary. You name a successor trustee in the event of incapacitation or death, as well as successor beneficiaries. You must be mentally competent at the time of the trust’s creation.

There are many different kinds of trusts to meet different purposes. In some trusts, for example, the grantor, trustee, and beneficiary may be the same person. A trust can be very simple, with a limited scope and duration, or quite elaborate.

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