We specialize in estate planning, estate administration, and probate services.  The staff at Johnson Law Offices, APC are experts in our field, but it is our commitment to our clients that differentiate our firm.  You can expect personalized, focused attention.  Your estate plan will reflect your unique values and concerns.  When you're done, you'll understand how the documents work and what you need to do to keep them current during your lifetime.

Do I need a will?

Everyone asks this question at some time in their life.  The answer is “yes” because it makes taking care of your possessions easier for the loved ones you leave behind.  It also allows you to state your wishes regarding who should receive your assets and who should be in charge to carry out your wishes.

Does a will need to be notarized?

No.  In order for a will to be valid in California, it must be signed by no less than two witnesses who are in the same room with you when you sign it and acknowledge that they saw you sign it.  

Can I hand-write my own will? 

Yes.  A valid holographic will is one that identifies the document as your last testament, is in your own handwriting, is signed and dated by you, and states what you want to have happen to your property after your death.  These are often contested in court, however.

Do I need a Trust?

Maybe.  A trust will help you avoid probate.  Without a trust, your estate may have to go through probate.  Probate can be lengthy, expensive and your estate plan will become public record.  If you want to avoid probate and you have property worth over $150,000, then you should consider establishing a trust.  If you have your property titled in a trust, you can name yourself as the trustee, but name another person to take over as successor trustee after you can no longer act.  You can instruct the successor trustee exactly how to run your trust, including instructions to take care of you if you become incapacitated.  You can also instruct your trustee who shall receive the benefit of your assets, when and under what circumstances.  Many people who own real property prefer to have a trust than a will alone.

Do I need a Health Care Directive?

Yes.  Your family, friends and physicians need to know how to care of you in case you are no longer able to communicate your health care preferences. 

What happens if a person dies without a will or a trust?

If a person dies without a will or a trust then the decedent's property will pass to the decedent's closest relatives (heirs) in the manner stated by state law.  Generally, in California, your property will pass to your relatives in the following order: surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, and more distant relatives.  Whether children and spouse both receive your property depends on whether the property is considered separate or community property.  If the decedent owned a home or other real property which is not held in joint tenancy, and the heir is not the surviving spouse, then the decedent's estate must be probated in order for the property to pass to the heirs.  If the surviving spouse is the heir, then there is a simplified probate procedure called a "Spousal Property Petition".