Intestate succession in California is a set of special laws within the probate code that determines how assets (including property and money) are distributed if someone dies without a valid will. These laws are also used if a will exists and the probate court declares it as invalid.
Intestate Succession in California Passes on Property to Heirs
If there is no valid will, intestate succession laws in California passes on the decedent’s property to heirs. An heir is an individual who is legally entitled to property when someone dies. California’s intestacy laws list heirs that will receive property if the decedent wasn’t legally married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of the death. The order for California intestate succession is:
- The estate is divided equally among biological and / or adopted children if there is no surviving spouse.
- If there are no children and no surviving spouse, the surviving parent(s) will receive the estate. If both parents are living, the estate will be equally split.
- If there are no children, no surviving spouse, and no parents, the estate will be split between any surviving siblings. The law does not differentiate between full siblings and half-siblings.
- If there are no children, no spouse, no parents, and no siblings, the estate will pass to any surviving grandparent(s). If there is more than one surviving grandparent, the estate will be equally split.
Intestate succession continues to looking for aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. If no heirs can be found, the property will be given to the State of California.
What about If There Is a Spouse and Children?
If there is no valid will and there is a surviving spouse and children, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the decedent’s community property and either one-half or one-third of the decedent’s personal property. The children will inherit the other portion of the personal property.
Not All Estate Property Goes Through the Probate Process
While intestate succession is used if there is no valid will, not all property goes through the California probate process. The assets that do not usually go through probate include:
- Assets held in joint tenancy
- Assets in a living trust
- Life insurance proceeds given to a named beneficiary
- IRA benefits with a named beneficiary
- Savings or checking accounts where a beneficiary is named or where the decedent was a trustee for another person
- Payable on death assets
- Transfer on death assets
- Assets passed to the surviving spouse if those assets were held only in the name of the decedent
- Community property with a right to survivorship (although a spousal confirmation hearing may be needed)
Are You an Heir?
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