When someone passes away, a significant emotional toll is left for their friends and family. Unfortunately, people sometimes pass away without a will or trust in place, which compounds this emotional turmoil. Per California probate law, when this happens, the state subjects estates to intestate succession. This is a complex process that can be rife with inheritance disputes. Here is what to know about it:
What is Intestate Succession in California?
Under California probate law, intestate succession occurs when someone dies without leaving behind a valid will or trust.
When someone passes away without setting up a will or a trust, their estate enters “intestacy.” Intestate succession governs who receives assets from the deceased person’s estate. We refer to the family members who receive these assets as heirs.
Determining who is entitled to receive part of the estate depends on the heirs’ relation to the deceased person. Heirs usually must be the deceased individual’s next of kin. Intestate succession determines who is next in kin and, as a result, next in line to inherit.
Every state has unique intestacy laws. Understanding what applies to your situation and navigating this complicated process requires the help of a premier probate lawyer.
What Property Does Not Pass Through Intestate Succession in California?
When determining intestate succession order per California probate law, you must first know what property passes through this process.
Not all property is subject to intestate distribution. Typically, property that you can categorize as probate property is subject to intestate. Types of property not considered probate property and do not pass through intestate include:
- Property held in a living trust
- Life insurance proceeds with designated beneficiaries
- Retirement account funds with designated beneficiaries
- Payable on death bank accounts
- Property the decedent owned in joint tenancy with the right to survivorship
- Securities and vehicles held in transfer-on-death accounts
What is the Intestate Succession Order in California?
By California probate law, relatives inherit property and assets based on how closely related they are to the decedent during intestate succession.
If the deceased was married with:
- No children, the spouse inherits everything.
- One child or grandchild, the spouse inherits all community property and half the separate property, and the child or grandchild inherits the rest.
- Two or more children, the spouse inherits all community property and one-third of the separate property, with the children inheriting the rest.
If the deceased was unmarried with:
- Children, the children inherit everything.
- Living parents and no children, the parents inherit everything.
- Siblings but no children or living parents, the siblings inherit everything.
- Living grandparents but no spouse, children, or siblings, the surviving grandparents inherit everything.
Furthermore, if the decedent has no surviving spouse, great-grandchildren, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, or cousins, the property passes on to the state.
Still, this is just scratching the surface. We advise contacting a preeminent probate attorney to determine your legal recourse in your circumstances.
Other Rules for Intestate Succession in California
When trying to determine intestate succession according to California probate law, several rules play a significant role. Key rules and regulations to be aware of include:
- The survivorship period: Survivors and heirs must outlive the decedent by 120 hours to be eligible for their inheritance.
- Half-relative rules: “Half” relatives are treated as “whole” relatives.
- Posthumous relative rules: Relatives conceived before a decedent’s death stand to inherit as if they were born while they were still alive.
- Immigration regulations: A person’s status as a legal U.S. resident or citizen has no impact on inheritance rights.
- Advancement rules: Gifts given to relatives by a decedent during their lifetime do not deduct from their inheritance.
- Slayer rules: Someone who killed the decedent with intent cannot receive any share of their estate per the California probate code.
Contact a Probate Lawyer for Premier Counsel When Navigating Intestate Succession Order in California
Intestacy law is incredibly complex. Navigating this aspect of California probate law and determining who stands to inherit from an estate under these conditions is impossible without the extensive expertise and experience of a probate attorney. Moreover, when the decedent has multiple children and step-children and has been married several times, emotions and tensions are often high, further complicating matters.
Fortunately, at Gokal Law Group, we boast unequaled experience and expertise to ensure you understand precisely who is legally entitled to an inheritance and your legal recourse in an inheritance dispute. Contact us for a consultation.