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Understanding intestacy laws in California

It is recommended that people plan their estate as early as possible because passing away without a will can lead to complex issues. When a person dies without an estate plan, this is known legally as dying intestate.

When a person in California dies intestate, their assets will be distributed according to California law. This means that assets will be distributed to surviving relatives in a certain order. If you have a loved one who passed away intestate, it is important that you gain a good understanding of how the law works in California.

Distributing assets to their spouse and children

If a deceased person is survived by a spouse but no children, the surviving spouse will inherit the entirety of the deceased person's probate estate. If the deceased person is also survived by children, the spouse will inherit all community property and up to 50% of separate property. The children will then inherit the remaining estate in equal proportions.

Distributing assets to their parents

If the deceased person is survived by parents and has no children or spouse, they will inherit all property after probate. If the person is also survived by a spouse, the surviving spouse will inherit all community property and half of the separate property. The surviving parents will then inherit the other half of the separate property.

Siblings' rights to inheritance

If there are no surviving parents or descendants, siblings will have a right to the inheritance. They will be entitled to half of the separate property, with the surviving spouse inheriting the rest of the estate.

What happens if a deceased person is not survived by immediate family?

If a deceased person dies intestate and has no parents, children, spouse or siblings, the inheritance rights will pass to any nieces or nephews that are living. If this is not successful, the inheritance will pass to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and more distant relatives. If an attempt to find a surviving relative is unsuccessful, the probate estate will escheat to the State of California.

If you have a loved one who has died intestate, it is important to take action so that the rightful survivors are able to gain their inheritance in a timely manner.

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