by Phillip C. Lemmons [email protected]
Trust and Estate Litigator, Public Speaker, Author and Founder of The Legacy Lawyers.

If your loved one dies without a will, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do next. In California, when an individual dies without a will, it is called dying intestate. California laws of intestate succession are then used to determine how your loved one’s assets, including the home, are distributed. The California laws of intestate succession are covered in Sections 6400 through 6414 of the California Probate Code.

So, where do you begin? The first step is to search your loved one’s home, safety deposit box, and storage facilities to determine whether a will exists. If you don’t have access to all of those locations, contact a probate attorney for further instructions. While you may feel uncomfortable rummaging through a deceased loved ones things, it is essential that it is done in a timely manner. You must be able to represent to the court that a thorough search was conducted and that neither a trust nor a will were located.

The next step is to retain an experienced probate attorney to assist you. Although your loved one did not leave a will, California law provides a “will” to distribute the assets. Below are a few examples of how asset are distribution under rules of California’s intestate succession:

  • Spouse dies, you are only surviving family member. If your spouse dies without a will, you will likely receive all of the marital property, or property which you and your spouse accumulated during the course of your marriage. If your spouse owned separate property (property acquired by inheritance or prior to the marriage) and there are no other surviving relatives, you will likely be awarded the separate property as well.
  • Spouse dies, with surviving children or parents. If your spouse dies without a will and leaves a surviving child or parent, then you may receive the marital property and up to half of your spouse’s separate property, with the rest being distributed among your spouse’s surviving relatives. If your spouse dies intestate leaving more than one child, then your share of your spouse’s separate property reduces to one-third.
  • Your last surviving parent dies. If your last parent dies without a will, his or her property will be divided among his or her living descendants according to the rules of intestate succession. For example:
  • All members of their nearest generation of descendants (their children) that contains at least one living member are entitled to an equal share of the remaining property (excluding any descendants that died with no descendants of their own).
  • If any of their children predeceased them (leaving their own children), their living children will each receive an equal distribution from that child’s share.

Sound complicated? It is, but you’re not alone. For more information contact us today at: (714) 963-7543.