Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo Logo

What Happens if I Don’t have a Will in California?

08/24/2023 | Blog, Estate Planning

Passing away without a will in California can result in your property and assets being distributed in a manner which is not in accordance with your wishes. In some cases, your estate could end up in the hands of relatives you are not close to or even with the State of California. Here is what can happen if you die without having a will in California:

Intestate Succession

In California, when someone dies without a will, he or she is considered to have died intestate. The way his or her property will be distributed is under the state’s laws of intestate succession. The law provides a specific order of people who will receive your property.

If you are not married or in a domestic partnership, then your estate will pass in the following order:

  • Children-If you have surviving children, they will inherit equally.
  • Parents-If you do not have children, your surviving parents will inherit equally.
  • Siblings-If you do not have children and your parents are not alive, any surviving siblings will inherit equally.
  • Grandparents-If you do not have living children, parents, or siblings, your grandparents will inherit your estate.

If you are not survived by any of these relatives and no other kin can be identified, your entire probate estate could escheat to the State of California.

If you are married, your spouse will inherit your half of the community property. If you pass away with separate property, your spouse will inherit all or a portion of it depending on whether or not you have living parents, children, siblings, or nieces or nephews. If you do not have any of these relatives, your spouse will get all of your separate property. However, if you do have surviving family, your spouse will get a portion but not all, of your separate property.

Assets Not Impacted by Intestate Succession

Certain assets will not be passed through a will and therefore will not be impacted by intestate succession. For instance, your life insurance proceeds, your retirement account funds, bank and other accounts with survivorship features, and property held in a joint tenancy or as community property with a right of survivorship will all transfer outside of intestate succession.

California intestate succession can be complicated for your loved ones. The best course of action is to plan for the future by consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney so you can make sure matters are settled according to your wishes. Schedule a consultation today to explore your estate planning options.