What Happens If I Die Without An Estate Plan In California?

Whether you have a will, a trust, or nothing at all, the setup, or lack thereof, determines how your estate will be administered after you pass away. After you pass away, your life has to be closed up, so to speak, almost like closing a business. Debts will be paid or negotiated. Assets will be inventoried. Final taxes will be prepared and filed. Finally, remaining assets will be distributed to heirs. This is the general administration process. 

If you do not create an estate plan (i.e., no will or trust), the succession of your estate is determined by California state laws, specifically the California Probate Code. This all begins with the opening of a probate administration in Probate court, absent a few small exceptions. The court will then appoint an administrator pursuant to the order of priority in Probate Code Section 8461: (a) surviving spouse or domestic partner, (b) children, (c) grandchildren, (d) other issue, (e) parents, (f) brothers and sisters, (g) grandparents, (h) issue of grandparents, and so forth. The person appointed administrator is not necessarily the person you would have preferred. 

After an administrator is appointed, that individual begins the process of administration, as described above. In California, particularly in Los Angeles County, this process can take at least 1-2 years. If there are objections or any litigation, the process can take closer to 3-5 years and certainly be more costly. 

There are small exceptions to the probate process if you die without a Will or a Trust, but those are very specific circumstances. If you have questions regarding your specific situation, please contact an attorney.

We are here to answer any questions you may have about estate planning, the estate planning process, or probate. 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.