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Dying without a Will in California

If a person dies without a will in California, the state takes charge of the estate distribution. Call a California estate planning attorney for a consultation.

Dying without a will is termed as intestate. The state handles the probate and determines who gets what from the deceased person’s estate. Here is the breakdown.

Dying without a Will in California

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If a person dies without a will in California, the state takes charge of the estate distribution. Call a California estate planning attorney for a consultation.

Dying without a will is termed as intestate. The state handles the probate and determines who gets what from the deceased person’s estate. Here is the breakdown. 

Who inherits when there is no will? 

Spouse: If someone dies without a will, their surviving spouse inherits all the estate they leave behind. 

Spouse and children: If both spouse and children survive the deceased, the spouse inherits all jointly owned property and half of all separate property. The remaining estate is distributed equally between the children.

Siblings and spouse: If spouse and sibling survive the decedent, the spouse gets all jointly owned assets plus half of the decedent’s separate property. Siblings get what remains. 

Parents: If a deceased person is survived by parents/guardians and has no children or spouse, the parents/guardians get to inherit everything after probate. 

Parents and spouse: If there is a surviving spouse in the picture, the parents get what remains after the spouse has inherited all jointly owned property and half of all separate property. 

Children: If one dies without a will and is survived by children alone (no parents and no spouse), they inherit all the estate.

Relatives: In California intestate probate codes, relatives are only considered for inheritance if close family members do not survive the deceased person. Nephews, nieces, and grandchildren are considered first before uncles, aunts, and grandparents.

The state: If no surviving close or distant family and relatives can be found, the estate escheats to the California government. They take ownership of it.

Key things to note:

Some or all of the decedent’s property might be the non-probate property. The property might be insolvent, meaning the debt accrued on them exceeds the value. 

Intestate succession laws do not affect the below-named assets. They automatically go onto the named beneficiary as at the time of their establishment: 

· Assets in a living trust

· Funds in retirement accounts including IRA and 401k

· Life insurance proceeds

· Securities in a transfer-on-death account

· Bank accounts and assets owned on a transfer-on-death registration

· Property in tenancy by entirety or joint tenancy with the right of survivorship

What to do when a parent dies without a will? 

Take Inventory: If there is no will, take an inventory of your parent’s assets, tax returns, and financial records. Financial statements indicate owned accounts, and creating an asset inventory helps streamline probate and estate tax calculations. 

Hire a lawyer

The lawyer will examine the financial records and the inventoried assets and advise what to do next. The next step will be probate-the estate planning attorney will help you through it. In other cases, probate might not be needed at all, as in the case of IRAs, 401ks, and other non-probate assets we listed before. 

My husband died without a will. What do I do?

Spouses of decedents are the first persons of consideration in no-will probates. As a spouse, you get to inherit all of the property you jointly owned with the decedent in marriage, as well as half of all property he separately held in his name. 

Here is what to do:

File a petition: Initiating probate in California starts with this step. File the petition in the supreme court of the county where your husband lived before death.

Propose yourself as an executor

The probate court will designate an executor or administrator of the estate. The executor can be a living spouse or close family member. 

Issue notices: Notify everyone, including heirs, siblings, relatives, and creditors of the deceased. The notice of hearing is often published at least three times in the local papers. Take inventory of the estate.

Pay debts, expenses, and taxes

Following the notices, anyone owed by your husband can claim the assets. There are also funeral expenses that can be paid from the estate.

Transfer of property

After paying debts and expenses, petition the court for permission to transfer the remaining assets per the state intestate succession laws that specify without a will who gets what.

How does a will work after death? 

If there is a will, it is immediately released to the public domain after death. Anyone can access it from the state’s probate records. The named will executor implements the will. The process is similar to no-will probate, except, in this case, the court doesn’t need to appoint a will executor. Further, the will executor distributes the assets per the deceased person’s last wishes and not the state’s intestate laws.

When there is no will, a lawyer and an accountant are critical persons to have by your side. The attorney helps you through the probate process, while an accountant guides you on financial matters.

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