Estate Planning – What if there is no will?

When a person dies (the decedent) without a will, people often mistakenly believe that the State of California will come in and take the property.  This result would be extremely unlikely.  When a decedent has no will, the California Probate Code will dictate who receives his or her property.  The Probate Code outlines a decedent’s heirs at law, those who have the right/authority to receive the property belonging to the decedent at the time of his death in the event of no will.

Intestate Succession (general rules for how property passes in California when there is no will)

  • If a person dies with a spouse but no children, the entire estate would pass to the spouse.
  • If a person dies with a spouse and children, the estate would pass differently depending on the character of the property, i.e. separate or community.
  • If a person dies with no spouse and no children, the property would pass to his parents.
  • If a person dies with no spouse, no children and his or her parents are deceased, the property would pass to his or her siblings
  • If a person dies with no spouse and no children, his or her parents are deceased, and he or she has no siblings, the property would pass to the siblings of his or her parents if they are alive or their issue.
It just gets more complicated from there, but you get the gist of intestate succession law.

Probate?

Whether or not a probate proceeding needs to be commenced really depends on the nature and character of the property owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death.  This is the subject for another post.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This is a great article. Many people have the misconception that the state will take their assets upon death if there is no Will or Trust.


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