Having a proper Will is critical to distributing your estate in accordance with your wishes. When a person dies without a Will, California law will guide the division of assets through probate court in a process known as Intestate Estate. No surviving family members will have a say in how the assets are divided; the issue will be decided under the discretion of the court in accordance with state law.
At Howard Law, we believe everyone is entitled to qualified legal advice when considering a Will or other estate plans. Without a Will, your estate will be left in the hands of Probate Court and you will be without a voice in securing the future financial well-being of your family.
How an estate not governed by a Will is divided depends on whether or not the decedent was married.
Married Decedent without a Will
- In cases where a married decedent dies without a Will, the issue of community property will be determined. Community property, usually property accumulated during the marriage, goes to the spouse. However, an experienced probate or family law attorney is best positioned to argue whether property is community - an area of law upon which whole volumes could be written.
- A spouse receives all property in cases where there are no surviving parents, siblings or children.
- Spouse receives half of separate property in cases with one child or in cases where parents or siblings survive.
- Spouse receives one-third of separate property in cases with more than one child or in cases where there is one surviving child and grandchildren.
- Spouse receives one-third in cases where children are deceased but are survived by more than one grandchild.
Unmarried Decedent without a Will
- Estate is divided equally among children (provided they are in the same generation).
- In the absence of children (or grand-children), the state will go to decedent's parents.
- If there are not surviving parents, the estate will go follow the parent's lineage, beginning with brothers and sisters.
- If there are no siblings, the decedent's grandparents would inherit.
- Absent the presence of grandparents, the grandparent's lineage would be followed and the estate would go to aunts and uncles, followed by cousins.
- Lacking cousins, state law says the estate will be distributed to "next of kin in equal degree," which usually means a search for more distant relatives in outward concentric circles.
If you are need to speak to a Los Angeles probate attorney regarding a Will or estate planning, or if you are dealing with an estate issue involving a loved one who died without a Will, contact Howard Law today for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
CALIFORNIA ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Call (800) 872-5925 - Howard Law