Q: I would like to write a will, to make sure everything is taken care of if anything happens to me. I don’t have a lot of property, but as a single parent, I’m concerned about making sure I appoint someone to care for my son in the event of my death. I’ve called a few lawyers, but it is really expensive, so I think I will need to do it myself.  I found lots of forms online, but they’re all different. I want to make sure it’s legally binding, but I don’t know what’s required. Any suggestions where I can find information about this?


A: You have several options, depending on the size of your estate and how you would like it distributed.

If your estate is fairly simple, you may want to consider using the California Statutory Will, which is spelled out in Section 6240 of the California Probate Code. The California State Bar has uploaded this simple will form to its website, which you can download for free. This will form works well for California residents with simple estates, allowing for specific gifts of real estate, vehicles, cash, and household and personal effects. This will form also includes clauses for appointing a guardian to care for minor children, and a custodian to take control of assets left to minor children.

This form is not intended for people with large or complex estates. If the statutory will form does not suit your needs, you may want to consult some of the will books in the Law Library’s collection, such as "Make Your Own California Will," "Quick and Legal Will Book," or "Quicken WillMaker Plus." These books are written in plain-English, and are intended for people who wish to write their own wills.

Additionally, the State Bar’s “Do I Need a Will?” pamphlet provides information about the statutory will form and other types of wills, to help you determine what will best suit your needs.

Keep in mind that wills are not the only estate planning device available to you. The State Bar’s “Do I Need Estate Planning?” pamphlet provides information about other methods of planning your estate to avoid probate, such as trusts and pay-on-death accounts. The Law Library’s collection also includes a number of resources that provide details for choosing estate planning methods that will best suit your needs.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
& @saclawlibrarian