Palm Springs Intestate Succession Attorney

In California, the probate process is a court-supervised process through which the property in the estate is distributed. Probate courts have a responsibility to identify the property owned by the deceased individual and appraise it. After paying off any qualifying deaths, the probate court will distribute the assets in the estate according to the terms of the deceased individual’s will. When someone passes away without a will, the probate court will distribute his or her assets according to California's intestate succession laws.

Contact a Palm Springs Intestate Succession Lawyer Today

At Heritage Legal, founding attorney Christopher Heritage provides clients with comprehensive estate planning services and legal representation during the probate process. Attorney Christopher Heritage has an in-depth knowledge of California’s intestacy laws and how they affect decedents, beneficiaries, and families. He has extensive experience representing beneficiaries in matters involving California’s intestate succession laws. Contact Heritage Legal today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how he can represent your best interests in an intestacy matter.

Who Inherits the Estate When There Is No Will?

Many Americans do not have a last will and testament or any type of estate plan. What happens when these Americans pass away? Who will inherit their property? When a person dies without a will, California's intestacy laws come into effect and govern the probate process. The probate court will choose an executor of the estate who will oversee the distribution of the assets in the estate.

California's intestacy laws set forth the order in which family members will inherit the decedent’s property. Determining who will inherit the estate assets after the decedent passes away depends on several factors, including whether or not the decedent was married and had children.

The Decedent’s Spouse

The married spouse of the decedent is always first in line to inherit the estate’s assets under California’s intestacy laws. A surviving spouse is only eligible for the inheritance if he or she was married to the decedent or in a civil partnership with the decedent. When the spouses have legally separated or have been divorced, the spouse cannot inherit. The same rule applies to common-law partners and those who are cohabitating.

When a legally recognized spouse survives to the decedent, the spouse will inherit all of the property jointly held in the marriage. The spouse will also inherit half of all of the decedent's separately held property. Separate property is any property the decedent owns before the marriage and assets the decedent acquired during the marriage but were held separately in the decedent's name. Separate property typically includes gifts, inheritances, and IRA accounts.

The Decedent’s Children

The decedent's surviving children will inherit the property that remains after the decedent spouse inherits all of the community property and half of the separate property. The probate court will equally divide the estate among the surviving children. If no children have survived the decedent, the surviving spouse inherits the entirety of the estate.

The Decedent’s Parents

When the decedent does not have a spouse or any children and is only survived by his or her parents, the parents will inherit the entire probate estate. Suppose a surviving spouse has no surviving children. In that case, the decedent's parents will inherit the remaining assets after the spouse inherits all of the marital property and half of the separate property.

The Decedent’s Siblings

When there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the decedent's siblings will split the entirety of the decedent’s inheritance. If a surviving spouse has no children, the siblings will inherit half of the decedent's separate property. The other half of the separate property and the total amount of the community property will go to the surviving spouse.

The State of California

When there are no surviving family members who qualify under California's intestacy laws, the state of California will obtain the decedent’s estate. California’s intestacy laws allow more distant relatives to inherit the estate, as long as the court can establish that the family member is eligible. As a result, the decedent's nephew, niece, uncle, or aunt may be eligible to inherit all or part of the decedent’s estate. However, when the probate court cannot establish a relative who qualifies, the decedent's estate escheats to California.

Half Relatives

If the decedent has a stepbrother or step-sister, these siblings will have the same and equal right to inherit the estate as a full brother or full sister.

Children and Adoption

All of the decedent's surviving children have a right to inherit part of the state under California's intestacy laws. Biological children, adopted children, and children from a previous relationship are all considered equal under California's intestacy laws. However, stepchildren only have a legal claim to the estate if the decedent legally adopts them. If the decedent passes away without a will, the courts have a right to appoint a guardian over the decedent's minor children.

The inheritance of the minor children will be safeguarded until they turn 18. The guardian must submit biannual accounting reports about the children's portion of the inheritance to the Probate Court. The funds will be fully released to the children who inherited them upon their 18th birthday.

Discuss Your Case With a California Intestate Succession Lawyer

When it comes to hiring an attorney in an intestate succession matter, finding the right probate lawyer is crucial. Attorney Christopher Heritage of Heritage Legal is among California’s most reliable and effective probate lawyers at the trial and appellate levels. When necessary, he is prepared to represent you in probate litigation and has years of experience advocating for clients involved in intestate succession matters. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced and skilled probate lawyer, contact Heritage Legal today to schedule your initial consultation.

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