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Omitted Heirs in California – What You Need to Know

12/08/2022 | Heirs & Beneficiaries
Omitted Heirs In California What You Need To Know

When someone decides to leave a close relative out of his or her will, they may be justified in their decision.  However, even if you have an excellent reason to disinherit someone, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be issues later on. Here is what you need to know about omitted heirs in California:

Proving Your Intent

When you exclude a close relative such as your child or spouse from your will, the court may presume that you did so by mistake, and end up giving part of your estate to the omitted heir. With other relatives, such as parents or siblings, it’s less likely their omission will automatically be deemed an error. In any event, if you plan on leaving someone out of your will, you should include an express statement indicating that you intended to do so. That way, there will not be any ambiguity about what you meant to occur.

Can I Disinherit My Children?

California law is structured to support children inheriting from their parents. But some family relationships can become strained, and a parent may decide not to leave anything to his or her adult child. A parent may make this decision because their child has an addiction, or is involved in illegal activity. Whatever the reason, when a parent decides to omit a child from his or her will, they will have to take additional steps. California law does allow a parent to omit a child provided certain conditions are met.

Can I Disinherit My Spouse?

California law provides that if one spouse leaves the other out of their will without explanation, the omitted spouse will receive:

  • Half of their spouse’s community property;
  • Half of their spouse’s quasi-community property; and
  • A share of their spouse’s separate property equal in value to that which the spouse would have received if the deceased spouse had died without a will. However, the share cannot be more than half of the deceased spouse’s separate property.

California law states that a surviving spouse will not inherit from a deceased spouse when:

  • The omission was intentional, and it is apparent in the deceased spouse’s will;
  • The living spouse waived their share of their deceased spouse’s estate; or
  • The deceased spouse provided for the surviving spouse by some other means, and it was evident that this provision was to be in lieu of the share the spouse would have received by inheritance.

Can I Disinherit Other Family Members?

As the testator, you are free to omit other relatives from your will. If you have brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, or uncles, they can all be left out. Likewise, you are under no obligation to leave anything to your parents. However, if you have reason to believe that these family members expect to be named in your will, it would be best to include an express statement that you are intentionally omitting them from your testamentary document. Otherwise, these relatives may end up contesting your will during probate.

At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, our attorneys have experience helping clients plan for peaceful resolution of their estates.  Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.