Under California inheritance laws, intestate succession is the process that determines the distribution of a person’s estate assets if no will or testament existed at the time of death.
Unlike a last will, the inheritance laws are free from challenge by loved ones or those who have a claim against an estate separate from the distribution by inheritance laws.
What does intestate succession mean?
Intestate succession is the order by which family members inherit assets from a deceased family member if there was no will. In California, the law states that the surviving spouse obtains the assets acquired during the marriage so long as no will exists. However, if a separate property exists outside of the marital estate, the separation of property is dependent upon the number of children the couple had:
- One child: spouse receives one-half of the separate property
- Two or more children: the spouse receives one-third of the separate property
If the deceased was not married but had children, the court will distribute the assets equally to the children.
What are the assets included in intestate succession?
The laws apply to the estate assets of the deceased. This will include all property owned, other than property owned under joint tenancy, assets with beneficiary designations or property held in a trust. Things under these categories could include bank accounts, real estate, revocable living trusts or life insurance policies.
It is possible for conflict to arise between the family members of the deceased. Having an estate plan can reduce a lot of this stress.