Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP - Estate Planning

What if one dies without a will?

Experts counsel people both in San Jose and throughout the rest of the U.S. to see to their estate planning early on in their adult lives. Yet even so, many American adults do not have a will. What happens, then, if you have a family member dies without ever preparing one? In such a case, their estate becomes subject to intestate succession. "Intestate" is the word applied to cases where one dies without a will, and the terms regarding how their estate will be dispersed are set forth by the state. 

California's guidelines regarding intestate succession can be found in Sections 6400-6414 of the state's Probate Code. Here it states that if the decedent was your spouse, you are entitled automatically entitled to one-half of the community and quasi-community property the two of you shared. Your deceased spouse's portion of that property would then be included in their separate property. you would also be entitled to the full amount of that separate property if your spouse has no surviving issue (direct descendants), parents or siblings. If they have one surviving descendant, parent or sibling, you would then receive one-half of their separate property, while the other half would go to that party. Your share of the separate property would lower to one-third if they have multiple surviving issue or direct family relations. 

If the decedent was not married, then the order of succession of their estate would be as follows: 

  • Descendants 
  • Parents 
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Issue of a predeceased spouse
  • Next of kin

The value of the estate would be distributed in equal amounts to each party entitled to an inheritance in a given category. 

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