A Guide to Intestate Succession in the State of California

The COVID-19 crisis has compromised health and endangered the lives of people. As such, what happens if you pass on without a last will and testament in place? That is where the intestate succession comes in as a default distribution of your property.

In this article, we’ll specifically share with you what intestate succession entails in the state of California. Keep on reading to see and learn why it’s still best to write a will.

Intestate Succession in a nutshell

In the law of inheritance, intestate succession entails the distribution of a property without a valid last will and testament. As a default distribution, it legally passes the ownership of an asset from the deceased person to another individual. Put simply, it is the state that writes the will for you if you don’t have one.

For the most part, the order of inheritance starts from the spouse to the children to the siblings to parents down to other relatives (cousins, aunts or uncles, etc.). Keep in mind, however, that each state has its own intestacy statutes. Therefore, you must be well-acquainted with what your state law entails.

Intestate Succession Laws in California

The inheritance laws in the state of California are quite straightforward. When it comes to its intestate succession, it clearly dictates how an individual’s estate asset gets passed on in the event of their death without a will.

Under the California intestacy laws, the closest family or relative of a deceased person will be the one to receive the asset. Below is the order of inheritance:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Child/children
  • Parents
  • Brothers or sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts or uncles
  • Cousins
  • The next of kin in equal degree

If the deceased was married, it’s important to understand the difference between community property and separate property. Take note of the following:

community kitchen

  • Community property

This is an asset owned by both spouses and acquired from income during the marriage. This type of property gets automatically transferred to the surviving spouse.

  • Separate property

This is an asset solely owned by the deceased, which is typically acquired before marriage. As a much more complex process, it adheres to the rules of intestate succession.

Intestate Succession Guidelines in California

Now that you know what the intestate succession law in California entails, let’s get into the specifics. For your reference, below are basic intestate succession guidelines in California:

  • If you were married with no children, all your assets would be given to your surviving spouse.
  • If you aren’t married but have children, all your assets will go to your children.
  • If you have more than one child, the assets will be divided among your children.
  • If you were married with children, your community property assets would go to your surviving spouse. On the other hand, your separate property assets will go to your surviving spouse and children. (Note: For one child only, one-half goes to your child and the other half to your surviving spouse. If you have more than one child, one-third goes to your spouse and two-thirds to your children).
  • If you have no spouse or children, your assets will go to the next of kin (parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc.)
  • If you have no heirs or kin at all, all your assets will escheat to the state.

The Need to Write a Will

It’s best to set a will and testament in place, especially during this pandemic. A will is a legal document honoring your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets and the care of your minor children after your death. It typically involves your properties but also includes other assets such as your finances, bank accounts, and other prized possessions.

When making a will, be sure to have a testator (the one who writes your will), the executor of the will (the delegated person ensuring the proper distribution of your assets), and two witnesses. In addition, it’s best to hire an estate planning lawyer. While having one isn’t mandatory, a legal expert has your best interest in mind. Ultimately, your hire lawyer will develop a legally binding will that will benefit your loved ones.

At this point, you now have a robust idea of the intestate succession in California. Be sure to consider all the valuable pieces of information discussed above. Still, it’s best to hire a reputable lawyer and write a last will and testament. After all, making informed decisions on estate planning will benefit you and protect your loved ones. We hope this blog has shed some light on what you need to know about the CA intestate succession law.

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