Intestate Succession California

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“A will is essential to ensure that your loved ones are adequately supported and that your assets pass according to your wishes. The state will distribute your investments based on its rules of intestate succession if you do not create an estate plan. A hierarchical formula distributes property among surviving family members in certain groups. Some people may be happy with this arrangement, but others may find it needs to reflect their preferences. The deceased’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings have priority, but each state enforces its rules.”

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Intestate Succession California

Have you ever thought about why Estate Planning is important? It is essential to have a complete Estate Plan if you want to fully protect your loved ones and your legacy if you have put off creating or updating your Will, Trust, or other Estate Plan. Here we will discuss about intestate succession California. Let’s start!


Precisely What Does Intestate Succession Mean?

The intestacy laws determine who inherits your assets if you die without a valid will. If you die intestate, your property goes according to intestacy laws. Certain aspects of intestacy are common to all states, but we will focus on their common characteristics in their intestacy laws.


Intestate Successions Pass Which Assets?

If you own an asset in your name and do not hold it jointly with another person, you may be subject to the laws of intestate succession. Examples of such investments are:

  • Property, such as a house or other real estate, is essential.
  • Cars, boats, and campers
  • Accounts with banks and brokerages
  • Animals (you may feel they are part of the family but are legally considered property.)
  • Clothes, books, and furniture that are family heirlooms
  • To avoid intestate succession laws, you should name a beneficiary for some assets, such as your 401(k) account or a life insurance policy.


Who Gets What When An Intestate Heir Dies?

Intestate succession California occurs in differing ways from state to state, although there tends to be a standard order of succession. With some variations, this will usually look like this:

  • Having a spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Sisters and brothers
  • The grandparents of your family
  • The next of kin to you
  • The state shall escheat (or transfer) if no next of kin exists.

It is important to note that every state has its own rules, so the above may differ slightly from place to place.

It is essential to have a careful Estate Plan if you have blended families or other exceptional dynamics. Adopted children, stepchildren, or heirs who have committed harmful acts or crimes may invalidate the estate plan or require special provisions.

Also, note that intestate succession laws do not apply to all assets. It is possible to avoid state laws and bypass probate and the intestate process by transferring assets into a trust, paying on death (TOD) accounts, or policies with beneficiaries named directly.


Shares of Spouses in California

In California, if you are married and do not leave a will, your spouse will inherit your property either as separate or community property, depending on how you own it. Community property refers to items that you acquired while married.


Shares of Spouses in California


Particular property refers to things that came into existence before marriage. Even if a spouse receives gifts or inheritances during marriage, skills, and inheritances remain separate property.

It’s your spouse’s responsibility to inherit half of the community property. It is common for spouses to mix everything (many do not have particular property); your spouse will inherit it all or a portion. Whether or not you have living parents, children, siblings, nieces, and nephews will determine how much your spouse will receive. If you do, they and your spouse will share it.

The intestate succession California attorney/law dictates that when you die without a will, your spouse will not receive the property you left to them if you are legally separated and not yet divorced. If you have any doubt about this area of the law, consult an intestate succession California lawyer who understands this area of the law. Domestic partners are subject to the same rules as married people in California.


Shares of Californian Children

Your children may inherit your property if you die without a will, and their share depends on the number of children and whether or not you were married at the time of your death. California intestacy laws stipulate that children must be legally considered your children to inherit from you. For many families, this isn’t a complicated issue. But it cannot be obvious.


Adopted children.

The intestate share that goes to your legally adopted children will be the same as that of your biological children.


Foster children and stepchildren.

Stepchildren and foster children you have never adopted will not automatically share in your inheritance. If a foster child or stepchild can prove: 1) the relationship with the child began when it was a minor, and 2) you would have adopted the child if it had been legally possible, they may be eligible to inherit. (Cal. Prob. Code § 6454.)


Children placed for adoption.

Biological children who are legally adopted will not inherit if adopted by another family. Adopted children who your spouse assumes will not inherit. (Cal. Prob. Code § 6451.)


Posthumous children.

Those children who are conceived with your genetic material during your lifetime but not born before your death will also receive a share if you give written consent for using your genetic material (Cal. Prob. Code 249.5).


Children born outside of marriage.

Your children can receive a share of your estate even if you were not married to their mother when she gave birth to them. However, they must show that you recognized them as children and contributed to their care and support.


Children born during your marriage.

A share of your estate is payable to the children born during your marriage or partnership with your wife or registered domestic partner.



You may only give your grandson or granddaughter a share if the grandchild’s parent (your son or daughter) dies. When you have questions about your relationship with your parent or child, talk to a lawyer with experience.


Can The State Take Your Property?

Without a will and any surviving family members, your possessions may fall into the state’s coffers if you die without a will. However, this is extremely rare since the laws allow you to give your possessions to anyone who has a distant relationship with you.

You don’t have to provide the state with your property if you have a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, cousins, or the children, parents, or siblings of your deceased spouse.


The Typical Rules of Intestate Succession California

When a decedent passes away, the surviving spouse usually inherits the most property, followed by the decedent’s children. Adopted children are most commonly considered children, but stepchildren and foster children are not.

A biological child adopted by another person does not inherit under intestate succession laws unless adopted by a close relative. A surviving spouse will likely inherit all of the decedent’s property if the deceased had no children—generally, a spouse’s right to inherit ends with legal separation or divorce.

Parents, siblings, and distant relatives would inherit if the dead had no spouse or child. The property may pass to the state without living, identifiable relatives.

A person inherits an intestate estate if they live for a certain period, usually about five days, longer than the deceased. Whenever two or more deaths occur around the same time, states may also apply the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act, which treats each person as though they had survived the other.

In intestate succession California laws, children inherit their parents’ shares of a deceased parent’s estate, known as the “right of representation.”

Certain types of property cannot be passed on intestate if you do not have a will. Regardless of whether a will exists, assets placed in trusts or investments with designated beneficiaries, such as bank accounts with payable-on-death provisions, will go to the beneficiaries named in the trusts or funds. It is impossible for community property with the right of survivorship, joint tenancy, or tenancy by the entirety to pass through a will.


Is Community Property A Factor In Intestate Succession?

It generally holds that separate property belongs to one spouse while community property belongs to both spouses. If you are married, your property typically falls into two categories: particular or community property. You or your spouse may acquire community property during your marriage, but with some exceptions.

You and your spouse own all the assets acquired during your marriage equally when you are married in a community property state. When one of you passes away, the surviving spouse will likely receive the entire community property. Separate property, however, belongs to you only. Your kids or parents may receive some of your property if you have them.

With community property laws, the USA has some states like:

  • Arizona,
  • California,
  • Texas,
  • Washington,
  • Idaho,
  • Louisiana,
  • Nevada,
  • New Mexico,
  • And Wisconsin.

Also, Alaska is an opt-in community property state, meaning both spouses can make their property community property.


Does the Intestate Succession Not Apply to Whom?

The law treats blended families differently, so it’s essential to understand how your relationships work. The California intestate laws consider your natural and adopted children your children; therefore, your estate can pass among them upon death.

While stepchildren and foster children have the same inheritance rights, they won’t be your children under the law, so if you pass away without a will, they will not be eligible to inherit from you. It’s essential to name stepchildren and foster children as beneficiaries in your last will if you have them and want to ensure they’re provided for after you pass away.

Only those who are related by blood or marriage can inherit. You can also use it to support causes you care about. You must list your favorite charities or nonprofits in your will if you wish to provide for them. You cannot leave your favorites to charities through intestate succession — you need to include them in your will.


Example of an Intestate Succession

Due to intestate succession in California laws, Jenny’s two adult children will inherit all her assets after Jenny dies.

Nevertheless, there is a caveat: Jenny’s assets are unlikely to pass based on the rules of intestate succession. So, it’s best to think about those assets first. Based on California intestate succession laws, the following would only pass through if adequately designated.

  • Living trust assets
  • Proceeds from her life insurance
  • Retirement accounts such as her IRA, 401(k), or 401(k)
  • She owned any joint tenancy and community property with the right to survivorship.
  • Any vehicle with a TOD registration

There will be no question about who inherits everything listed above. This will either be the beneficiary of her account or the surviving co-owner.


There Are Other California Intestacy Succession Rules.

The following are a few other things to know about the intestacy laws of California.


Survivorship period.

In California, an intestate succession statute states that a person cannot inherit from you if they outlive you by 120 hours. For example, if he dies a few hours after you do, his estate would not receive anything from your estate.



The property of “half” relatives is the same as if they were “whole.” Your sister, with whom you share a father but not a mother, has the same rights as if you shared both parents.


Posthumous relatives.

You inherit as if you had been alive when your relatives were born, even if they were born before you died.


Immigration status.

Whether your relatives are citizens or legally living in the United States, they will be entitled to inherit your estate. (Cal. Prob. Code, section 6411.)


Advancement rule.

Only if you wrote to this effect or the relative agreed in writing will the gift be deducted from the relative’s share that the facility will no longer exist.


Slayer rule.

The property of someone who kills you “feloniously and intentionally” will not be shared with that person. (California Probate Code § 250.)


Bottom Line

During an already stressful time, intestacy proceedings cost time and money. They confuse, and they can even lead to arguments among your heirs. Making a will will save your loved ones from the stress of dealing with intestate proceedings.

  • Your assets must pass as you intend;
  • You can give your property to people you are not related to or to charitable causes you care about.
  • Streamline probate and save loved ones’ time and money.

Prioritizing your estate planning now will help you avoid dying intestate and adding stress to your family. To do so, you should have either (or both) a Will and a Trust. It only takes about 15 minutes for most people to create their will.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Attorney  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  Bio...

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