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Dying Without a Will

If a California resident dies without a will or trust, they die “intestate” and the laws of intestate succession are used to determine who will inherit the estate.

For advice on how to handle dying without a will, contact a Bay Area lawyer at The Evans Law Firm at 415-441-8669 or 888-50-EVANS or info@evanslaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

San Francisco Lawyers, Representing Potential Beneficiaries When There Is No Will

Determining the heirs of the estate involves answering a series of questions about the person who died — beginning with if he or she was married, if he or she had children, and so on

If the decedent was not married, the estate is distributed as follows:

  • To the decedent’s children, who take in equal shares if they are in the same generation.
  • If there are no children or other issue (issue is the legal term for children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) living, the estate goes to the decedent’s parents.
  • If there are no parents living, the estate is distributed to the “issue of the parents.”
  • If there are no brothers or sisters, the decedent’s grandparents will inherit the estate.
  • If there are no living grandparents, then the “issue of the grandparents” will inherit the estate (decedent’s aunts, uncles, cousins, etc).
  • If there are no cousins, Probate Code Section 6402 provides that the estate will be distributed to “next of kin in equal degree,” generally meaning more distant cousins.

If the decedent was married, the first question is whether the decedent owned community property, separate property or a combination of the two. The decedent’s community property goes to the surviving spouse, who may have to file a spousal property petition to establish ownership. The decedent’s separate property is distributed as follows:

  • The surviving spouse receives all of the separate property if the decedent is not survived by issue, parents, brothers, sisters, or children of a deceased brother or sister.
  • The surviving spouse receives one-half of the separate property if the decedent had only one child, or issue of a deceased child.
  • The surviving spouse receives one-half of the separate property if the decedent left no issue, but left parent(s) or their issue.
  • The surviving spouse receives only one-third of the separate property if the decedent left more than one child.
  • The surviving spouse receives only one-third of the separate property if the decedent left one child and the issue of one or more deceased children.
  • The surviving spouse receives only one-third of the separate property if the decedent left the issue of two or more deceased children.

The Evans Law Firm Advises on California Laws of Intestate Succession

To create a will, please call 415-441-8669 or contact our San Francisco attorneys online via e-mail to schedule a free initial consultation. We serve clients in communities throughout the Bay Area and Southern California.

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