It’s spooky season! And there’s nothing better to get in the holiday spirit than a good horror story. Halloween has arrived and here are five ghastly estate planning myths that we’ve all heard (and shouldn’t believe).

1. If you die without a will or trust, your property is automatically awarded to the government
This is so rare and it almost never happens. However, in the case that you either don’t have a will or trust and/or don’t have any family to be found, it just might. In this case, your property will be “escheated” to the state. This means that the property’s ownership will be transferred from your estate over to the state of California. This doesn’t occur easily, anyone who is even remotely related to you will be sought out first. 

2. Only the ultra-wealthy require estate planning
Not true. When you create a comprehensive estate plan, you’re doing so much more than just providing for your family financially. What about incapacity planning for your health care and finances while you’re still living, or guardianship for your minor children? Peace of mind is important for everyone, regardless of estate size.

3. As long as you’re married, you don’t really need estate planning
It’s important for everyone to have some degree of estate planning done, and married couples are no exception. While it is true that property held in joint tenancy between two spouses will pass to the surviving spouse on the first’s death, there can be many circumstances you don’t foresee or special situations you’d want to plan for. What if you both die at the same time? What if one or both spouses have children from outside the marriage, or wants to provide financially for an aging parent?

4. Will readings are commonplace
In the state of California, if someone dies with a will or trust their beneficiaries and heirs are entitled to receive a true and complete copy of the terms per CA Probate Code §16061.7. So, if you’re ever questioning whether or not you’re inheriting from your deceased loved one’s estate, it’s more than likely that you’ll find out through a notice mailed to you in the privacy of your own home than at a public will reading.

5. “I trust that my family will handle things in the ways I made known”
The idea that your family may manage your estate based on sheer intention alone is an unfortunate (and potentially very costly) misconception. Without any proper estate planning done, no one has any say in how your estate is administered after your death except for the California probate courts and code. It truly does not matter how much you trust your family or loved ones to “take care of things,” even if you had a detailed conversation with them outlining your exact wishes on your deathbed. If you haven’t properly documented them in writing before your death, your wishes will mean nothing to a probate judge.

Happy planning, and happy Halloween!


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.