Who Inherits in California When There is No Will?
Who inherits if no will?
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The Rules of Intestacy in California to inherit property if there is no Will.
When someone dies without a will, there can be much uncertainty. Depending on the situation, friends and family may end up frantically searching in vain for evidence of what the decedent intended. Although close loved ones may claim they know what the individual wanted, the estate will be divided according to California law without a valid will.
So, who inherits in California when there is no will?
Notwithstanding, if you’re settling the estate of a deceased person who hasn’t left a will, you probably have more than a few questions about how the estate will be distributed. Consequently, it’s essential to understand that many kinds of assets aren’t passed by will, such as:
`• Life insurance proceeds, real estate, bank accounts, and other assets held in joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, or community property with right of survivorship.
• Property held in a living trust.
• Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or retirement plan for which a beneficiary was named.
• Funds in a payable-on-death (POD) bank account.
• Stocks or other securities held in a transfer-on-death (TOD) account, and
real estate or vehicles held with a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed or title document.
To find out who inherits these property types, you’ll need to locate the records in which the beneficiary designation was established. These documents will tell you who is inheriting the property. (But if the parcel was co-owned with the right of survivorship, the co-owner will now own the property.)
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Inheritance Without a Will
In California, when someone dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. Intestate succession describes how an estate will be distributed to specific heirs under the law. How the estate will pass will depend on who survives the decedent.
The Surviving Spouse
If the deceased person was married, the surviving spouse’s share of the estate depends on whether the decedent also had children, living parents, siblings, or other relatives. There will also be questions about the couple’s community and separate property.
California law provides that a surviving spouse will inherit all community property. This is noteworthy because community property consists of everything the couple has earned or acquired outside of limited exceptions, such as inheritance and property owned before marriage. Moreover, this may include valuable assets such as retirement and bank accounts, real estate holdings, and investment portfolios. Separate property consists of property owned exclusively by one spouse.
Parents, Siblings, and Other Family
If the decedent were married and had one child, the surviving spouse would get all of the community property and half of the decedent’s separate property. The child would get the other half of the respective property. If they had more than one child, the surviving spouse would get one-third of the separate property, and the children would divide the remaining two-thirds.
If the decedent did not have children, California law next looks to surviving parents. If there are surviving parents, they will get one-half of the decedent’s separate property. The surviving spouse would get the other. If there were no parents, then the decedent’s siblings would get half of their particular property, and the spouse would get the other.
When there are no children, parents, or siblings, the law looks for additional relatives, including nieces or nephews, grandparents, aunts or uncles, cousins, and others. If the decedent did not have living parents, children, siblings, or other family members defined under California law, the surviving spouse would inherit all of the community and separate property.
No Surviving Spouse
When there is no spouse, but there are children, they will inherit everything from their parents. If there is no spouse or children, but there are parents, they will inherit everything. Siblings inherit everything if there are no children or parents. Otherwise, the estate will pass to other relatives in an order dictated by California law. If there are absolutely no identifiable family members, the entire probate estate will pass, or escheat, to the State of California.
Being in the line of intestate succession does not guarantee that anyone will inherit from the probate estate. When a person dies without enough property and funds in their estate to pay their creditors, the estate will be considered insolvent. In that case, there won’t be anything left to give to identified heirs. There may also be a property that passes to a decedent’s heirs outside of the probate estate, such as life insurance proceeds, funds paid to a retirement account beneficiary, assets placed in a trust, and property and funds that are subject to survivorship provisions.
Contact a California Estate Planning and Probate Attorney
California intestate succession laws and probate processes are complicated and challenging to navigate. If your loved one has passed away and you can’t locate the will, you should contact a California estate planning and probate attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. You and your attorney can review your circumstances and plan for your next steps.