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CA Intestacy Laws: What Happens If You Die Without a Will


When people pass away without leaving a will behind, their assets will be passed on to their close loved ones via California intestacy laws.

Intestacy laws, which may also be referred to as the law of descent and distribution, essentially dictate the order of priority for inheritance among the surviving close relatives of a decedent (i.e., a person who has died).

In other words, these laws explain who gets what, based on who the surviving relatives are.

CA Intestacy Laws: Inheritance Priority

Although California intestacy laws can be complicated, the following table provides an overview of how they apply.

Surviving Loved OnesInheritance Priority
(no spouse, parents, or siblings)
Children inherit the entire estate.
(no children, parents, or siblings)
The spouse inherits the entire estate.
(no children, spouse, or siblings)
Parents inherit the entire estate.
(no children, spouse, or parents)
Siblings inherit the entire estate.
Spouse & childrenWhile the spouse will get all of the joint property and 1/3 to ½ of the separate property, the children will get ½ to 2/3 of the separate property (i.e., the remaining separate property).
Spouse & parentsWhile the spouse will get all of the joint property and ½ of the separate property, the parents will get the other ½ of the separate property.
Spouse & siblings
(no parents)
While the spouse will get all of the joint property and ½ of the separate property, the siblings will get the other ½ of the separate property.

CA Intestacy Laws: Additional Important Info

  • In order to inherit anything via California intestacy laws, a relative has to outlive the decedent by at least 120 hours. This is known as the survivorship period.
  • Half relatives and adopted relatives are treated as though they were biological or “whole” relatives under California intestacy laws.
  • Immigration status will not impact inheritance rights under California intestacy laws. In other words, people can inherit a share of a decedent’s property regardless of whether they are in the U.S. legally.
  • California intestacy laws prohibit someone who has murdered another individual from inheriting a share of that individual’s property.

San Fernando Estate Lawyer at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman

Do you need help devising a will or developing a comprehensive estate plan? If so, it is time to contact the trusted San Fernando estate lawyer at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman. Since 1980, our San Fernando estate lawyer has been dedicated to providing his clients with personalized, highly responsive service, as well as superior representation for their important legal matters.

With San Fernando Estate Lawyer Darrell C. Harriman on your side, you can be assured that you will have an experienced, skilled lawyer helping you develop the best estate planning solutions for you and your family.

Contact Us Today

Let’s talk about your legal needs today. You can contact our firm by calling (818) 892-7093 or by filling out the contact form on this page.

From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, and the greater Los Angeles area.

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