Picture of elderly woman signing documentsProbate is a process carried out after the death of a loved one to distribute his or her estate to family members. Without a will or a trust, the California probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the probate process for the deceased’s estate.Probate law provides a priority list for designating this administrator. The court usually chooses the deceased’s closest living relative for this appointment. However, complications may arise if more than one person holds the same priority, or if the person with the highest priority has a conflict of interest.

Next, the estate is subjected to California’s intestate succession laws to determine how the estate will be distributed amongst legal heirs. Unfortunately, if a loved one passes without a will in place, he or she no longer has authority to decide how or to whom the estate is distributed. Instead, California’s probate laws will determine how the estate is distributed.

California Intestate Succession Laws

Without a will, the deceased’s assets will go to his or her closest living relatives. If the deceased has:

  • Children, but no spouse, the children will inherit everything.
  • A spouse, but no children, parents or siblings, the spouse will inherit everything.
  • Both a spouse and children, the spouse will inherit the deceased’s community property, while any separate property will be distributed evenly between the spouse and children.
  • A spouse and parent(s) but no children, the spouse will inherit the deceased’s community property, while any separate property will be distributed evenly between the spouse and parent(s).
  • A spouse and sibling(s), but no parents or children, the spouse will inherit the deceased’s community property, while any separate property will be distributed evenly between the spouse and sibling(s).
  • None of the above, the estate will go to the closest relatives in the deceased’s extended family.
  • No close or extended family members, the entire estate will go to the state of California.

Questions About Probate in California? Contact Our California Probate Attorneys

Leaving behind your estate and assets without a will or a trust means forfeiting your say in how your estate will be distributed. It also forfeits your say in who oversees the inheritance process. Crafting a valid will, trust, and estate plan can help you avoid these unwanted complications. It can also put decision-making power into your own hands before it is too late. Davidson Estate Law can help you establish a valid will and trust, as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

If you are already facing the probate process, speak to our California probate attorneys. Contact our office to learn more about our services. You can also schedule a free consultation at (510) 570-1933. Our main office is located in Oakland, but we also have locations in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Jose and San Mateo