You may not realize it, but California has a set of laws, called intestacy laws or laws of succession, that determine who receives your estate, and in what proportion, in the event you die without first making a Last Will and Testament. These distributions may have nothing to do with the way in which you wanted your property and assets to pass.
Per the California Legislature, your intestate estate gets divided up among your natural heirs, i.e., your family members, most notably your wife, domestic partner and children.
Something else you should keep in mind is that should you and your wife, domestic partner, or child die in the same accident, California law provides that you survived that person unless (s)he survives you by at least 120 hours.
Intestate distribution percentages
You also need to remember that California is a community property state. This means that all of your and your spouse’s or domestic partner’s marital property belongs to each of you equally. Thus, should you die intestate leaving only a surviving spouse or domestic partner, (s)he will receive your entire estate.
Should you die intestate leaving a surviving spouse or domestic partner and one or more surviving children, your estate will be divided 50 percent to your surviving spouse or domestic partner and 50 percent to your surviving children in equal shares.
Bear in mind that the word “child” includes not only any biological child you have, but also any child you adopt. If you are a man, it also includes any biological child you fathered out of wedlock.
Another quirk in the law says that should one of your children predecease you but leave children of his or her own who survive you, these grandchildren will take their deceased parent’s share of your estate if you die intestate.
California’s laws contain detailed provisions as to the way your estate will pass should you leave no surviving wife, domestic partner or children. In order of importance, your natural heirs at this point are your surviving parents, surviving siblings, and other surviving family members more distant to you, such as your aunts, uncles and cousins.
This general educational information is not intended to provide legal advice.