Planning Your Estate – Part 10

Legal Doc Help


Property not affected by your will

Generally speaking, your will affects only those assets which are in your name alone at your death. Some assets which are not affected by your will include:

• Life Insurance proceeds when the policy has a valid beneficiary designation.

• Retirement Plans with a valid beneficiary designation.

• Assets owned as a Joint Tenant - real estate, automobiles, bank accounts and other property held in joint tenancy will pass to the surviving joint tenant upon your death, not in accordance with any directions in your will.

• Assets owned as Community Property with Right of Survivorship - married couples can own property this way which is very similar to joint tenancy. When an asset is owned this way, the property transfers to the surviving spouse, not in accordance with instructions in your will.

• Transfer on Death or Pay on Death - some bank accounts and savings bonds security accounts may be held with a beneficiary designation such as “transfer on death” (“TOD”).

• Living Trusts - assets held in a revocable living trust at your death are distributed pursuant to the provisions of that trust document.

• Your spouse’s half of Community Property - in California, any assets acquired by you and your spouse from earnings during your marriage are community property. You and your spouse own equal shares of those assets. Your will, therefore, affects only your half of the community property, not your spouse’s.

The executor of your will

Your executor (or personal representative) is responsible for collecting and distributing your property after you die and for arranging to pay your debts and taxes. It is both common and appropriate to name a close relative or friend to do the job. Your choice need not have special professional knowledge; he or she can hire an attorney and accountant to do any necessary legal and tax work.

Your choice for executor should:

• agree to serve

• be trusted by you and your beneficiaries

• live in or close to your state to more effectively handle his or her duties

• be likely to survive you

Naming your beneficiaries

The main purpose of your will is setting forth who gets your property when you die. For many, this is an easy task - you may want it all to go to your spouse, your kids, your partner or your favorite charity.

In your will you can make specific bequests, that is, leave specific property items to specific people or groups (beneficiaries). After the gifts are distributed, the remainder of your assets are distributed to your residuary beneficiaries. Your residuary beneficiary receives anything that does not go, for one reason or another, to the beneficiaries you named to receive specific bequests. There is no need to describe, in your will, the property the residuary beneficiary will receive. By definition, your residuary estate is the rest of your property that does not pass outside of your will or in a specific bequest, so it is impossible to know exactly what it will include.

Charlotte L. Ruse is a Kern County registered and bonded Legal Document Assistant (LDA), serving Kern County for 12 years by providing affordable self-help legal document preparation and Notary Public services. Kern County LDA #95 EXP. 10-1-17. I am not an attorney. I can only provide self-help services at your specific direction.


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