Palm Springs Law Blog

Monday, July 31, 2023

Intestate Succession and Blended Families: Navigating Complex Inheritance Issues

Marrying another individual who has children from a previous marriage presents various unique considerations. The same can be said when you have children from a previous relationship yourself.

One such consideration involves your assets and what happens to them after you die. Without an estate plan, intestate succession dictates the distribution of your assets.

If you do not yet have an estate plan, it is vital to understand how the laws of intestate succession will apply to your blended family and how you can create a comprehensive estate plan to secure your family’s future.

Intestate Succession vs. Estate Plans

An estate plan may consist of a will, trust, and other documents, and collectively, these documents tell a court how you want your assets distributed upon your death. Provided the plans you outlined in these documents are lawful and there is no evidence of fraud, courts will generally follow your estate plan’s directions.

You can use an estate plan to benefit specific individuals and organizations or achieve financial objectives, like avoiding probate.

You are said to have died intestate if you die without an estate plan. In this situation, California laws specify how your affairs will be handled and who will receive your assets. The court will appoint an administrator to oversee your estate and ensure it is handled according to the law.

How Intestate Succession Works

When you pass away without a will in California, your community and separate property pass through the laws of intestate succession. Community property refers to property acquired when you were married to your spouse. Separate property is any gift explicitly designated for you by law, as well as property you acquired before you were married.

If your new spouse is surviving after you pass, your spouse will inherit all of the community property. They will also receive a share of any separate property you have. The size of the share will depend on whether you have any natural or adopted children alive at the time of your death.

The Size of Your Spouse’s Share

Your spouse will inherit your separate property in equal shares to any of your children who are surviving after your death. This includes natural children and children you legally adopted, including those from previous relationships. It does not include any children from your new spouse’s previous marriage.

For example, suppose that you have two children from a prior marriage but die before you and your new spouse have any children together. Your spouse would receive one-third of your separate property, and each of your children would also receive a one-third share.

Any children of your spouse who you did not adopt would not receive any share of your separate assets.

The Legal Status of Your Previous Marriage

Another complication that can surface in a blended family situation involves the legal state of your previous marriage. If you did not divorce your previous spouse and are unmarried to your current spouse, your former partner to whom you are still legally married would inherit all of your community property by intestate succession.

Your current partner would not be entitled to any share of your estate.

Creating Your Own Estate Plan in Palm Springs, CA

A comprehensive estate plan is the most effective way to protect your new blended family and ensure they are provided for if you die unexpectedly. You can create this plan with the help of a qualified estate planning lawyer.

At Heritage Legal, PC, we can review your family situation and advise you on how an estate plan can benefit you in Palm Springs, CA.

Do not put off protecting your loved ones any longer. Contact Heritage Legal, PC, to schedule your consultation today.

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