California only allows you to pay an attorney for probate or DIY. Why? – Update Cali

If you’re trying to avoid religion or politics at Thanksgiving dinner, try estate planning. After all, a will is more than just a piece of paper—it’s an opportunity to shape your legacy, help those you love, and champion the causes you believe in.

In California, however, arbitrary and vague rules have made it largely impossible to create one without expensive lawyers. That needs to change.

Creating a will in California can cost up to $400 in attorney fees. This price is too high for many, but compared to the alternative – probing – which may be necessary if someone dies without a will, it’s a relative bargain. When it comes to a loved one’s estate, the family can be on the hook for significant costs—a lawyer can receive $4,000 to take a $100,000 estate through the probate process.

California law recognizes this financial barrier in some respects. State law allows California residents to handwrite their wills without witnesses. But because most people don’t know how to properly draft a legally enforceable will, there is a real potential for expensive mistakes.

Why should the only choice be between expensive legal fees or gambling with an uninformed individual understanding the inheritance code?

Truth be told, the probate code isn’t so complicated that it requires you to go to three years of law school and pass the bar to prove you qualify. What makes a will a complex document is not the law, but rather the fact that it is an expression of our complex relationships—to dear friends, to significant others, to blood relatives, and to specific things. A good therapist is probably more important to writing a will than an expensive lawyer. An honest lawyer would tell you the same thing.

Unfortunately, the law does not reflect this reality.


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