Who Will Inherit Your Estate If You Die Without Making a Will?

Yes, drafting a will can be difficult—either because you’d rather not face the inevitable right at the moment, or you can’t take the time out to do it—any forward-thinking person must understand its importance. If you aren’t aware of what happens to your estate if you die without making a will, you won’t have the incentive to make one. So, with that in mind, we prepared this piece with a breakdown of who inherits your estate if you don’t draft a will.

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

The Probate Process: What You Need to Know

When someone dies, their debts are paid, and their assets are distributed through a process called probate. This process is overseen by a local probate court administered by an administrator (when a will is absent) or an executor (when a will is present). Generally speaking, in the absence of a will, a probate judge appoints the next of kin as the administrator.

During the probate process, the administrator’s responsibility is to use the estate funds to pay off all estate taxes and debts before any heirs receive their share of the inheritance. Once paid in full, heirs can inherit the estate via intestacy succession laws.

Intestate Succession Laws in California

When a California resident dies without making a will, the state’s intestacy probate process automatically begins, the intestacy succession laws of which can be found in the California Probate Code.

When the Deceased is Survived by their Spouse and Children

The surviving spouse inherits one-half of the deceased’s community property, as well as one-half or one-third of their separate personal property. The deceased’s children will inherit the remaining one-half or two-thirds of the separate property, which is distributed per stirpes.

When the Deceased is Survived by their Spouse and No Descendants, Siblings, or Parents

The surviving spouse will inherit the entirety of the deceased’s estate, including separate, community, and quasi-community property.

When the Deceased is Survived by their Spouse, Parent or Parents, and No Descendants

In such as case, the surviving spouse receives the entirety of the deceased’s community property, as well as one-half of the separate property. The deceased’s parent’s inherit the balance.

When the Deceased is Survived by their Spouse, Siblings, and No Descendants or Parents

The surviving spouse will inherit the entirety of the deceased’s community property and one-half of the separate property. The deceased’s siblings inherit the balance.

When the Deceased is Survived by No Spouse but by Descendants

The deceased’s descendants inherit the entirety of the probate estate, per stripes.

When There’s No Surviving Spouse or Close Relative

If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, parents, descendants, or siblings, their property passes to their nephews and nieces, if any; otherwise, they pass to grandparents, uncles or aunts, great uncles or aunts, cousins; or the children, siblings, or parents of a predeceased spouse. In the highly unlikely circumstance that none of the aforementioned individuals survive the deceased individual, the entirety of the probate estate will escheat to the state.

If you’re in need of an experienced wills and trusts attorney or a probate attorney in Chico, CA, get in touch with our team. We will provide you with the legal advice you need regarding the accounting and administration of assets in the event that you lost someone without a will.

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