What Happens if I Die without a Will in California?

Worrying about how your assets will be distributed after death is something that can be avoided if you take the time to set up a will and figure out the details of your estate. If you were to pass away without a will, the laws of intestate succession are used to determine who in your family will be inheriting your assets.

There are different rules depending on if at time of death you are married or single, if you have children, and if you have grand children or other relatives. If you are married, the first item to figure out is your property, which includes community property, separate property, and can include a combination of both types. Without a will and without any other surviving relatives, the the property will go to your spouse, who may have to file a spousal property petition to establish ownership. If you have surviving children, parents, or siblings, the property will be distributed to family members according to the California laws.

If you have no will, depending on what type of property and assets you own, your estate may have to go into probate. Someone in your family would have to file to begin the probate process. Most probates occurring in the state of California are handled using the state’s Independent Administration of Estates Act. This act lets the executor of the state take care of many matters without having to constantly ask permission from the probate court. The executor can usually handle some transactions, like selling estate property or paying taxes, but selling real estate requires approval from the probate court.

Even if you think you know what type of property you own, California case law has provided many exceptions to traditional definitions, so it’s very important to discuss estate plans with an attorney. To prevent the state from distributing assets according to Probate Code section 6402, we can help you to easily create a living will or trust that outlines your plans for your assets.

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