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Estate Planning (4)

Terms To Know Before You Formulate A Will

Terms To Know Before You Formulate A Will

Deciding what will happen to your belongings and other assets after your passing may take months or years to finalize. A will is an essential part of an estate plan that will help streamline the process of distributing your assets upon your passing.  Prior to formulating a will with an attorney’s assistance, it’s important to know specific terms that you will inevitably encounter in the process. Four of the most important terms to know are beneficiary, guardian, executor, and trustee.


A beneficiary is a person who will receive an asset in accordance with a will. Deciding what beneficiaries will receive depends on the testator (the person who formulated the will). A will can list as many beneficiaries as the testator wishes. They are not always limited to people; organizations such as hospitals or non-profits can also be listed as beneficiaries. Assets can include:

  • Personal belongings
  • Money, which can include bank accounts
  • Gifts

Residual beneficiaries may also be included. These include entities that inherit whatever is left of your estate following other asset distribution or the paying off of debts.


Guardians are those who will care for a testator’s child/children in the event of their untimely death. This only applies if both parents have passed. If an individual has a child under the age of 18, a guardian should be listed in their will. Prior to listing the person or couple, the chosen guardian(s) must agree to accept this responsibility. In many cases, individuals listed as guardians are siblings of the testator or some other member of the family. It is important to know, however, that non-family members can be chosen as guardians. Close friends can be listed as well.


An executor is a person you have chosen to manage and distribute your assets and estate. The executor is an important role to play and deciding who that person will be is a decision that should be made carefully. Namely, you need to choose someone you know that you can trust. Also, the ability to accept and perform the responsibilities involved should play a role in deciding who to choose as your executor. As the executor will be working closely with your beneficiaries, it’s important to choose someone you think will work well with them. Additionally, a testator is not limited to only one executor.


If you have decided to establish a trust, the person you designate to take charge of it will be the trustee. This person’s responsibilities include handling the trust and ensuring the funds are spent wisely. It’s best to have between one and four people who are trustworthy and reliable to properly distribute the trust’s contents. Trustees may also be executors.

Contact Us

Formulating a will on your own can be complicated, so make the experience easier with the guidance of a skilled attorney from the law office of Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP, in San Diego. Contact us today at 858.935.6211.

Wills And Probate

Wills And Probate

There may come a time when you or a loved will have to plan for the interests of family and friends after your death. Establishing a will is an essential part of an estate plan that not only guarantees that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, but it also ensures that your loved ones will be taken care of after your passing. Almost anything can be included in a will, including:

  • Personal belongings
  • Bank accounts
  • Trusts

Employing the services of a highly-skilled family law attorney to assist in creating or updating your wills and probate matters is highly suggested. The attorney will assist in:

  • Explaining which laws apply to your situation
  • Determining what to include/exclude
  • Drafting or updating the document

The attorney’s responsibility does not always end when the document has been drafted and signed. Following the death of the testator (the person who has formulated the will), an attorney may be appointed to ensure that the family and the court upholds the wishes of the recently deceased.

Helpful Links

The following links have been provided to better allow you to understand how wills work and why one should be drafted.

For any questions relating to wills and probate, contact one of our attorneys.

Familiarize Yourself With The Most Common Types of Wills

Familiarize Yourself With The Most Common Types of Wills

It may surprise you to know that a will is not just a written document stipulating how one’s assets are to be distributed upon one’s passing. Determining which type of will you wish to draft depends both on your wishes and the laws that reflect wills and probate in your state.

Statutory Will

Also known as a simple will, these types of documents will best serve those who own small estates. The state where the testator resides can provide a simple form that the person drafting the document can easily fill out. However, not all states recognize statutory wills. Be sure to consult an attorney familiar with the processes of formulating such documents to determine if a statutory will is legally binding in your state.

Testamentary Will

This type of will stipulates that a portion of your estate will be placed into a trust. Trusts work by distributing the assets of the testator to a beneficiary and the assets may be administered by a third party. The administrator of the trust will gradually distribute the assets listed therein to the beneficiary. However, it is also possible for the testator and the trust administrator to be the same person.

Joint Will

As the name implies, joint wills are formulated by two testators. They work by distributing shared assets to the testator who outlives the other. These types of wills are popular among married couples, as the surviving spouse is listed as the sole beneficiary. This type of will is strict in that it may be amended at any time while the two testators are alive but becomes final and irrevocable upon the death of one of them.

Living Will

This type of will is perhaps the most unique. Living wills do not distribute assets after the passing of a testator. Instead, the form documents what is to become of the testator if he/she becomes too ill or incapacitated to communicate. For example, if a testator is involved in a serious car wreck and is on life support, the will may stipulate his/her wishes to be removed from life-preserving machinery if such a situation ever arises.

Contact Us

No matter which type of will you wish to formulate as part of your estate plan, do so with the assistance of an attorney from Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP, by contacting 858-935-6211.

Importance Of A Will

The Importance of a Will

Without a will, the courts will divide you assets as they see appropriate. The only way to protect you wishes is to legally document them.

Although intestacy laws vary from by state, it is a general standard that the assets will be shared between the surviving spouse and children. If one is single and does not have offspring, the estate will be inherited by blood relatives.

Wills are extremely important for parents to make as they can specify who will take over guardianship of the children if the parents were to pass. By having the designation predetermined and documented, the transition for the children will be much easier as long court cases regarding custodianship will be avoided.

Adjustments can be made to a will at any time. The document is not set in stone. It is beneficial to review your will periodically to provide for any modifications which might need to be made in accordance to a new development in your life. Assess the beneficiary designations as your IRA, 401(k), pension, and life insurance policy will all be transferred automatically to the named beneficiaries upon your passing.

Even if you have a trust, you should have a will as well. The trust will only provide for specified assets such as property. It neglects the total sum. A revocable living trust is best when in conjunction with pour-over will. The pour-over will places assets into the trust even if they are not re-titled. Without the protection of a will, the assets not titled will be divided by the state.

For assistance on writing a will, please call the San Diego family lawyers of Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP at 858-935-6211.

Oh, I also didn’t like to color within the lines and I would wander away a lot and say I was exploring.

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