A will is a legal document that states what will happen to your property if you die. It must be written in the proper legal form or it is not valid. In California you need two witnesses over 18 years old to witness your will.

What is in a will? A will provides for the distribution of your property if you die. It has no legal effect until you die and you can cancel it or change it while you are alive. For example, you may state in your will that your jewelry will pass to your daughter, your car to your son, your savings account to your parents, your residence to your spouse and so on. An executor (person responsible) is appointed to make sure that the property passes under the terms of the will.

You designate whom you want as "executor". Usually a lawyer prepares a will for you.

However, there is one kind of a will that is called a "holographic will" that is recognized in California and other states. A will that is written, signed and dated by the decedent will be recognized as legal.

What if I don't write a will? What happens? If you die without a will our property will pass under the laws written in the Probate Code. In general, your property will pass to your spouse. If you have no spouse, then it will pass equally to your children. If you have no spouse or children, then next to your parents, and if no parents to your grandchildren and so on. If this is not the pattern you desire, then you should write a will. Even if this is an acceptable pattern, you probably should write a will or a trust for the reasons discussed later in this booklet.