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Law Office of DeAnne E. Parker
Redding Probate, Trusts, Estate Planning And Business Attorney

What happens if I die without a valid will?

Like other states, California has laws that specify what happens if a resident of this state dies without a will.

As many Northern Californians who pay attention to the news know, even people who are quite wealthy can from time to time simply neglect their estate planning and then die leaving millions but no will. However, California's so-called intestacy laws would also apply in situations where the only known will gets invalidated or fails to dispose of all the assets that get administered through probate.

The intestacy laws of this state can be rather complicated, particularly for those who are not used to courts and the court process. Someone who thinks that these law may apply to their situation should strongly consider speaking with an experienced California probate attorney.

However, to give an overview, one important feature of these laws is that California uses what are called community property principles. The basic idea behind community property is that a married couple each owns 50% of the property acquired during their marriage. Should one spouse die, the surviving spouse gets the deceased's 50% share.

For other property, the surviving spouse will only inherit all of it in rare circumstances. Most of the time, such as when the deceased has at least one child or one surviving parent, the surviving will get either one-half or one-third, depending on the circumstances. The remainder of the estate will pass to the deceased's other relatives.

When a person dies without a will or a surviving spouse, then the estate will ordinarily pass to other relatives, with the person's children getting special consideration.

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