1. Home
  2.  → 
  3. Probate
  4.  → What happens if someone dies in California without a will?

What happens if someone dies in California without a will?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2024 | Probate |

Wills are important documents for personal protection and the security of loved ones. Although most people recognize how valuable estate planning is, quite a few people procrastinate. They don’t want to think about what happens when they die, so they put off drafting a will.

Procrastination about estate planning can lead to someone dying without a will. When that happens, the deceased person loses all control over what the probate courts do with their property and the support that their loved ones receive after they die.

The law governs estate administration

California has statutes in place addressing this exact situation. When someone dies without a will, intestate succession laws determine what happens with their property.

California is a community property state. That means the surviving spouse of the person who dies has a protected interest in a certain portion of their property. If the decedent also has children, the spouse likely has to share the contents of the estate with the children. The exact division of resources depends on whether the surviving spouse is a parent or stepparent to the decedent’s children.

If someone does not have a surviving spouse, then their children may inherit most or all of their estate. Parents may also have inheritance rights. More distant family members can also receive the property from someone’s estate if they die without immediate family members. If no surviving family members are found, then the assets that belong to the individual may eventually become the property of the state of California.

People who plan take control their own legacies

The time and money invested in an estate plan can yield significant returns. People benefit from having peace of mind when they know that they have control over their legacy and their loved ones have access to protection. Without an estate plan, someone’s impact on the world when they die may not align with their personal values and wishes.

Taking the time to create a will and other estate planning documents is a smart move for those with close loved ones or specific personal values. People who create estate plans can potentially have a particularly positive impact on their loved ones after they die.