Intestate Succession: Who Receives My Things if I Die Without an Estate Plan?

If you pass away without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets will be determined by the laws of intestacy in your jurisdiction. In California, as a community property state, assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered community property. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse usually retains ownership of their own share of community property. The deceased spouse’s share of community property will typically pass to the surviving spouse unless there are specific provisions in the law that dictate otherwise.

Intestacy laws vary depending on the country or state you reside in, but generally, they outline a default inheritance scheme. The following is an overview of the intestacy laws in California pursuant to California Probate Code Section 6401 et seq.:

  • Spouse and Children: If you are married and have children, your spouse and children will typically be the first to inherit your assets. As to community property assets, your surviving spouse will inherit all of your community property. As to separate property, your spouse will inherit half of your separate property if you leave one surviving child and your child will inherit half. If you leave more than one surviving your child, your surviving spouse will receive one-third of your separate property and your children will inherit two-thirds of your separate property. Surviving children of a deceased child also affect the distribution. 
  • Spouse Only: If you are married but have no children, your spouse will inherit the entirety of your community property assets. As to your separate property, your spouse will inherit the entirety of it unless you have surviving parents who will inherit the other half. Deceased parents and surviving siblings is another scenario that affects distribution. 
  • Children Only: If you have children but are not married, your children will inherit the entirety of your estate. 
  • Parents and Siblings: If you are not married and have no children, your parents or siblings will inherit your estate in fractions based on who survived you or not. 
  • Extended Family: If you have no surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings, your assets may pass to more distant relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or even the state if there is no one living.

It’s important to note that without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets may not align with your wishes, and it can lead to complications, disputes, or unintended outcomes. Creating a comprehensive estate plan, including a will or trust, allows you to specify how you want your assets distributed after your death and can provide clarity for your loved ones. It is advisable to consult with a qualified attorney or estate planning professional to ensure your wishes are properly documented and legally binding.

To ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, regardless of your marital status, it is recommended to create an estate plan, including a will or trust, designating beneficiaries, and specifying how you want your assets to be distributed after your passing.

We are here to answer any questions you may have about estate planning, the estate planning process, or your specific situation. Together, we can craft a one-of-a-kind plan to ensure that you and your family are properly protected. Contact us today at 424-242-5021.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. For specific guidance regarding your situation, please contact an attorney.