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Consequences of dying without a will in California

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2023 | Wills

Planning for the distribution of assets after death is an important aspect of estate planning. However, not everyone takes the time to create a will.

In California, dying without a will, also known as dying intestate, can have significant consequences. This article explores what happens if you pass away without a will in California, highlighting the potential impact on asset distribution and the role of state laws.

Distribution of assets

When a person dies without a will in California, the state’s intestate succession laws will determine how their assets get distributed. These laws dictate how the state will divide the decedent’s property among surviving family members. The distribution follows a predetermined order based on the family relationships of the deceased.

Spouse and children

If the deceased had a spouse but no children, the spouse typically inherits the entire estate. If the decedent had children but no spouse, the children generally share the estate equally. In cases where the deceased had a spouse and children from that marriage, the spouse typically inherits all or a portion of the estate, while the children receive the remaining share.

Parents and siblings

If the decedent has no spouse or children, their parents are next in line to inherit the estate. If the parents have died, the estate would pass to the decedent’s siblings. If the decedent has neither parents nor siblings, the estate would continue down the line to other relatives, such as nieces, nephews or cousins, based on the intestate succession laws.

No surviving relatives

In situations where the decedent has no surviving relatives, the estate would escheat to the state of California. This means that the state becomes the legal owner of the assets.

Dying without a will in California can result in the distribution of assets according to state laws, which may not align with the decedent’s wishes. Creating a will allows individuals to have control over their assets even after death. With a will, individuals can specify beneficiaries, appoint an executor to administer the estate, designate guardians for minor children and even make charitable donations.