Wills are a basic estate planning tool, often combined with a durable power of attorney and medical directive. Wills are a legal document that basically identifies your property or money, who you would like to get them upon your death, and who should be the person managing those items until they are finally distributed. Guardians and conservators can also be identified in a Will.
Without a Will, if you should pass away it will be California law - not you - that determines what will happen to your property and who gets it. Any potential heirs will have to go through the Probate process in court, which is quite lengthy in California, to determine who is entitled to your property.
However, although a valid Will does provide instructions on how you want your last wishes carried out, or who you want to be your child’s Guardian/Conservator, it does not provide an actual mechanism to do it. A Will must be filed in court and go through a Guardianship/Conservatorship proceeding or the Probate process to have those instructions carried out and completed. As a result, the Will becomes a public document, which not everyone is comfortable with. Also, the Probate process in California is expensive and time consuming.
A Will based estate plan can accomplish your goals but has some clear drawbacks. As a result, many people avoid having their heirs waste time and money in public Probate proceedings and utilize a different estate planning tool, called a Trust.