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Estate planning: The role of a will

Some people envision that creating a simple will is a matter of writing out how they wish their estate is divided upon their death. However, a will can be a complicated estate planning document. Because laws vary according to state, many people want someone with knowledge of California laws to help them create one.

A will has several roles. In addition to declaring the heirs of an estate, it also lists who will administer the estate and often names a caregiver for any minor children. A will is important because if a person dies intestate -- without a will -- his or her estate is subject to division according to state law. Unfortunately, state law may not align with a person's wishes.

Because life changes, and thus a person's wishes regarding the division of his or her estate, he or she has the option of changing their will. Though handwritten changes on a will are generally not enforceable, a testator has the option of creating a codicil, an amendment. However, because most documents are now in digital form, it is relatively easy to draft a new document that reflects the requested changes.

Some people who want a will may choose to draft their own. While this may seem like a prudent financial decision, mistakes could result in a document that cannot be enforced. As such, people in California often turn to professional with experience with state law to help them ensure that their wishes are clearly expressed and enforceable. In man cases, the creation of a will is the first step in the estate planning process.

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