California Intestate Succession

California intestate successionIf you die without a will, your property may go through California intestate succession. However, California intestate succession can be complex, may not comply with your wishes and may subject your loved ones to unnecessary taxes. An estate planning attorney can help you learn how to protect your interests in the event of your death. Contact Herbert Law Office today for more information.

What Is California Intestate Succession?

Intestate succession is the process through which the court distributes your assets to your heirs in keeping with a traditional will (which is not protected by linking it to a living trust). However, if you don’t have a will, then the court will distribute your property according to California intestate succession laws and your wishes will not be considered by the probate court. This process is very expensive, very time-consuming and very stressful for your loved ones.

Assets That Do Not Transfer Through California Intestate Succession

It can be difficult to know which property will transfer to your heirs through California intestate succession. Typically, only those assets that would have transferred through your will are impacted by laws addressing intestate succession. That includes any property that you own in your name alone.

Assets that do not transfer through California intestate succession include the following:

  • Life insurance benefits
  • Property controlled by a living trust
  • Retirement account funds, including in an IRA and 401(k)
  • Transfer-on-death accounts
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Vehicles that have a transfer-on-death registration
  • Property owned in joint tenancy with someone else

These assets technically become the property of someone else immediately upon your death. Thus, they do not need to go through the California intestate succession process. An estate planning attorney can help you understand if your property or that of your loved one should go through intestate succession. Because the laws can be confusing, it’s best to work with a legal professional who can advise you of your options.

How Does the Court Distribute Property Through California Intestate Succession?

California intestate succession follows a series of laws that determine who gets what in the event that you die without a will.

Who Are Your Closest Relatives?

California intestate succession

In general, your closest relatives will inherit your property. For example, if you:

  • Die with no spouse, but children, then your children will inherit everything you owned.
  • Die with a spouse, but no children, parents, or siblings, then your spouse will inherit all of your belongings.
  • Die with spouse, and children, then half or one-third of assets will be inherited by spouse and balance will be inherited by your children.
  • Have parents, but no spouse, children, or siblings, then your parents will inherit your property.
  • Have siblings, but no children, spouse, or parents, then your siblings inherit all of your assets.

If your property is to be split among your children or siblings in these situations, it will go equally to each person.

What If Multiple Close Relatives Are Alive?

However, if you have multiple close relatives alive, the court will split your property in the following ways:

  • Under current law, your surviving spouse would be required to file a petition to confirm his/her community property rights.
  • If you have a spouse and children, then your spouse will inherit all community property and either ½ or 1/3 of your remaining separate property. Your children will inherit either ½ or 1/3 of your separate property.
  • If you have a spouse and parents alive, then your spouse again inherits all of your community property and ½ of your remaining separate property. Your parents would then inherit ½ of your separate property.
  • If you have a spouse and siblings, but no parents, then your spouse would inherit all of your community property and ½ of your separate property. Your siblings would inherit ½ of your separate property.

If there is more than one person in any of these groups, such as children and siblings, those people will equally share the amount of property that the group is to inherit by law. This can be extremely complex, and it’s best to speak with an estate planning lawyer who is familiar with intestate succession to make sure that everyone is receiving a fair share of the estate.

California Intestate Succession and Children

If you do not have a will and die in California, your children will inherit some of your property through California intestate succession. However, who is and who is not considered a child is not always clear. According to law, the following children will receive property through intestate succession:

  • Legally adopted children
  • Biological children
  • Posthumous children, or those who are conceived prior to your death but born afterwards
  • Children born outside of your marriage, but only if they can prove you had knowledge of them and contributed to their support and care
  • Children born during your partnership or marriage
  • Grandchildren, if a recognized child is no longer alive

Children that were placed for adoption, step children, and foster children will not receive anything through California intestate succession.

Call Us Today for More Information About California Intestate Succession

California intestate succession can be extremely complex. It’s best to work with an estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process and help you understand your rights. Call Herbert Law Office today for more information about how we can help you.