What a Will Does

A will provides for the distribution of property owned by you at the time of your death in any manner you choose. A will also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor child(ren) if you have survived the other parent, eliminate the need for bonds, and designate an executor of your estate.

What a Will Does Not Do

A will does not control the transfer of certain types of assets, called nonprobate property, such as property held as Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship, or assets that have beneficiary designations, such as IRA's, retirement benefits, life insurance, annuities, or payable on death accounts. Such assets get distributed directly to the beneficiary.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will

If you die intestate (without a will), California laws will determine who receives your property. Generally the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. The State's plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes. A will allows you to alter the state's default plan to suit your personal preferences.