If you don’t have a will in California and you pass away, your estate will become subject to intestate succession. This means that the State of California has predetermined rules about what should happen to the assets inside the estate. If you had specific wishes but never articulated them within a will, your wishes might not be honored when intestate succession kicks in.
Many people assume they don’t need a will and therefore don’t spend the time to create one. But this can be a big mistake. Not all property goes through the traditional probate process, but having a will and other estate planning tools to use is very valuable if you want to make things easier on your loved ones.
Other property that does not go through the traditional probate process includes property titled into a living trust, proceeds with the named beneficiary on a life insurance policy, payable on death bank accounts, property the decedent owned in joint tenancy, and retirement account funds.
Anyone determined to be an “heir at law” is entitled to a portion of the probated estate. The decedent’s surviving spouse and surviving children are those most likely to be named as heirs at law in California.
If there is no surviving spouse, the order of succession entitlement goes children, parents, siblings, and grandparents. It’s quite possible that there’s someone outside of this chain that you would like to receive certain property. The best way to ensure this and verify that your rights are protected is to hire an experienced Pasadena estate planning law firm to help you develop a will and other estate planning documents that explain your wishes.
Creating a plan based on your needs gives you the peace of mind that should something happen to you, your family is taken care of the way you intended.