Serving The Bay Area And All Of California For More Than A Decade

Photo of the reception room of Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP

What happens when someone dies intestate in California?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2021 | Estate Administration

Everyone should write a will at some point during their adulthood. Unfortunately, some people never get the chance. If someone dies without a will in California, a judge will ultimately decide who gets their assets.

Who gets an individual’s estate if they die without a will?

In the state of California, the individual’s spouse and children get first priority. Their spouse gets half their community property and a fraction of their separate property, depending on how many children the individual had. If the individual didn’t have children, a judge splits their estate between their spouse and their parents.

If the individual died without children or living parents, their spouse gets everything. If the individual had siblings, they divide half of the individual’s separate property while the spouse receives the other half and all communal property. Finally, if they had children but no spouse, their children get the entire estate.

If the individual had no immediate relatives living, their estate goes to the closest relative who is still alive. This could include grandparents, nieces, nephews and even their late spouse’s parents. If they can’t find any living family members, the estate goes to the state of California. For these reasons and others, everyone should consider estate planning at some point in their lives. An estate planning attorney could help you write a will that distributes your assets according to your wishes instead of leaving it up to the state.

Is it too early to write an estate plan?

Most people don’t start writing an estate plan until later in life. However, you never know when you’re going to need it. If you die without a will, you have no control over who gets your assets. To make matters worse, your family members could turn asset distribution into a long, drawn-out legal battle. An attorney could help you write a will that encompasses your entire estate.