CA Intestacy Laws: What Happens if You Die Without a Will
June 16, 2015
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 Ones||Inheritance Priority|
(no spouse, parents or siblings)
|Children inherit the entire estate.|
(no children, parents or siblings)
|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 & children||While 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 & parents||While 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|
|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.|
- 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 to inherit a share of that individual’s property.
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