In California, if you own any property when you die that is not distributed by a Will, Trust, or beneficiary designation, or that is not jointly owned by someone who survives you, that property will be distributed to your heirs under “intestate succession” laws.
So, who are your heirs under intestate succession? The following is a brief overview of intestate succession in California:
If you die with:
- children but no spouse, your children inherit everything
- a spouse but no children, parents, siblings, or nieces or nephews, your spouse inherits everything
- parents but no children, spouse, or siblings, your parents inherit everything
- siblings but no children, spouse, or parents, you siblings inherit everything
- a spouse and one child, your spouse inherits all of your community property and ½ of your separate property
- a spouse and two or more children, your spouse inherits all of your community property and 1/3 of your separate property, and your children inherit 2/3 of your separate property
- a spouse and parents, your spouse inherits all of your community property and ½ of your separate property, and your parents inherit ½ of your separate property
- a spouse and siblings, but no parents, your spouse inherits all of your community property and ½ of your separate property, and your siblings inherit ½ of your separate property
The above does not include all intestate succession scenarios or rules. An estate planning attorney can help you to determine how intestate succession would affect the distribution of your property if you were to pass away.
An experienced estate planning attorney can also help you determine which property is considered community property, and which property is considered separate property under California law.
If you do not want your property distributed in the manner provided for by intestate succession, you should consult with an attorney to discuss estate planning options that will ensure that your property will be distributed in the manner that you wish.
If the property passing by intestate succession exceeds the limits set by probate law, your property will likely need to go through probate (the court oversight of the administration of the estate), which can be very expensive and time consuming. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you prepare an estate plan that avoids involvement of the probate court, saving your heirs time, money, and the difficulties often associated with probate.
If you have questions about any of the above, please contact the Law Office of Carol A. Fauerbach at (916) 597-1305 to discuss options for developing a customized estate plan that meets the needs of you and your family.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.