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Sacramento Estate Planning: What Happens When One Dies without a Will?

Published by Trudy Nearn on May 28, 2014

Successful Sacramento estate planning minimizes uncertainties as to where a person’s assets will go and who gets them when one passes away. If you find yourself as the executor or administrator however, your job could be a bit more complicated if the person didn’t leave behind any will. If that is the case, then you’ll be subject to state probate laws regarding how to distribute property has not been included in the will. This is definitely a situation where working with an experienced estate planning and probate law firm is recommended.

Basics of Intestate Succession

Some states have different laws regarding who gets what when it comes to estate distribution without a valid will, which is collectively referred to as intestate succession. Nolo.com points out that generally speaking, only spouses, registered domestic partners (in states where this is an option), and blood relatives can get a share of the estate in this situation. The scope can be a lot broader, however, if a valid will by the testator (i.e. the deceased) exists.

Who Gets What?

Under California’s intestate succession laws, the deceased person’s assets are awarded to his or her closest relatives depending on specific scenarios. For instance, if the testator leaves behind a spouse and children, the spouse gets the entire community property and either a half or a third of separate property, while the children get the remainder. Should the testator have a spouse and siblings (but no parents) at the time of death, the siblings inherit half of the separate property while the spouse gets all of the community property and half of the separate property.

Death of an Heir

Nolo.com describes how the death of an heir affects estate distribution as follows:

"Obviously, an heir who has died can't inherit. But if the heir was a close relative, such as a child of the deceased person, his or her offspring may be entitled to take some or all of what their parent would have received. Figuring out whether this is the case can be tricky, but it's essential that you do so before distributing assets."

Family Absence

What happens, then, if the testator doesn’t have family in the first place? In theory, the deceased person’s assets will then “escheat” into the state’s funds. Fortunately for prospective heirs, California law permits the deceased person’s remote relations to inherit property.

If you have any questions about handling someone’s estate without a valid will, you might want to consult a reliable estate planning attorney from Sacramento from a respected firm like Generations.

(Source: How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will: Intestate Succession, NOLO)

Category: Info Articles

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