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What Happens When a Person Dies without a Will in California?

Daryll Pomey Orat - Sunday, May 03, 2015

When a person dies without a will in California, he is said to have died intestate, and the state’s succession laws will automatically apply. The succession laws will determine who inherits the person’s estate. That inheritance will depend on a number of factors, including whether the person was married at the time of his death.

If he was married, questions of whether the property that he owned at the time of his death was separate property or community property will apply. Community property is property that both the spouses acquired over the course of the marriage, while separate property is property that the persons brought individually into the marriage.

If the person had community property at the time of his death, then all of the property will go to his surviving spouse. However, if he also had separate property, then things may become more complicated. The surviving spouse may also be eligible to a share of the separate property, but there may also be other inheritors, including the parents, siblings, and other relatives. If your loved one has died interstate, speak to a California estate planning lawyer for advice.

If the person was not married, then the estate will go to his children, and if there were no children, or any other heirs, then to the parents.

When California's succession laws apply to your property, your assets may end up in the hands of those whom you do not desire to have your property. That is why it is important to have an estate plan in place. That includes not just a will, but also a living trust, and a living will. For help drafting a will, speak to a California estate planning lawyer.


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