Probate Without a Will
What Assets Are Subject to the Laws of Intestacy?
Unless an exception applies, your loved one’s assets will all generally descend through their intestate estateThe assets and liabilities left behind by a decedent.. Common exceptions include property that is held in joint tenancyA form of ownership in which property is jointly owned by two or more persons, and when one joint owner passes away, their ownership interest automatically passes in equal shares to the other joint owners. (e.g., certain real propertyLand and all things which are growing thereon, permanently attached thereto, or permanently erected thereon. Real property also includes easement rights., some bank accounts), property that has a designated beneficiaryA person selected by the owner of an asset, such as a retirement account or an insurance policy, to receive the asset at the time the owner passes away. (e.g., life insurance or retirement accounts), or property that is held in a trustAn arrangement in which property interests are legally held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settlor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary).. These exceptions are more common when a person has proactively prepared for their passing. If your loved one didn’t prepare a willA legal document which expresses a person’s final wishes about what happens to their property after they pass away, often specifically identifying intended beneficiaries for specific items of property., then it may be more likely that more of their assets will be subject to the laws of intestacyThe type of estate for a person who passed away without having made a valid will. Intestacy laws define who should receive the decedent’s assets..
Who Gets What Under the Laws of Intestacy?
Under California’s statutory laws of intestacy, the State clearly defines who gets what after a person passes away intestate. It may sometimes seem unfair in light of the reality of different relationships during the decedent’s lifetime, but without a will, the State’s statutory presumptions of who gets what will generally prevail. Although there is much more to it than this simple statement, generally assets will descend to those who had closest relations with the decedentA person who has passed away. by blood or marriage.
Any number of potential issues arise when a person passes away intestate. Common issues might involve the identification of property as community propertyAssets owned in common by a validly married couple, each spouse generally holding a one-half interest in the property. or separate property, especially when a decedent re-married later in life and had biological children from another marriage. Other potential issues can include whether property belongs to the intestate estate or properly descends outside of the laws of intestacy, whether a gift from the decedent during their lifetime was an “advance” on a relative’s inheritanceProperty which a person receives from a decedent, whether by the laws of intestacy, a will, or a trust., the inheritance rights of children whose connection to the decedent are more complicated (e.g., foster children, stepchildren, biological children placed for adoption, children born outside of marriage, etc.), and whether the decedent was a victim of elder abuse or homicide.
Contact Our Experienced Probate Litigation Team
Our experienced team of attorneys brings a broad scope of experience to address the potential gamut of issues you may be facing in your probateThe legal proceeding by which a decedent’s testamentary document, such as a will, is proven to be valid, and the subsequent procedure of administering the decedent’s estate. matter. We strive to provide effective, practical, and timely results. We aim to resolve issues before resorting to litigationLegal proceedings brought before a court to enforce a legal right., if at all possible, in order to save our clients money and to allow all the parties to move forward with their lives on amicable terms. However, when litigation becomes necessary, we will wield the sword of justice to protect your interests and defend your loved one’s legacy.
If your loved one has passed away and you’re feeling overwhelmed, we can help. Every situation is unique, and it is best to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. Contact us today by calling (949) 450-8500 to schedule your consultation.
California Statutes Regarding Administrators (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 8460-8469)
California Statutes Regarding Intestate Inheritance (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 6400-6414)
California Statutes Regarding Parent-Child Relationship in Intestacy (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 6450-6455)
California Statutes Regarding the “Slayer Rule” (Cal. Prob. Code § 250)