If you have a properly executed will, this document speaks for you after you pass away when it comes to decisions about who gets your assets or who will serve as the guardian for your minor children. If you don’t have a will, however, these important decisions are handled by the California courts. This process, known as intestate succession, follows specific rules in determining who gets what.
Only those estate assets that would have passed through probate will go through intestate succession. There are plenty of asset types that are transferred to beneficiaries in other ways, such as life insurance proceeds, funds in an IRA, payable on death bank accounts, property you own with someone else in joint tenancy, property placed inside a living trust, and funds in retirement accounts.
Your current family structure impacts what happens with intestate succession. For example:
- If you have children but no living spouse, your children will inherit everything in your probate estate
- If you have a spouse but no children, siblings, parents, or nieces and nephews, your spouse will inherit everything
- If you have siblings but no parents, spouse, or kids, your siblings will inherit everything
These are just a few examples, and California law outlines many different scenarios based on the living family members you have at the time you pass away. When it comes to what your spouse receives when you pass away, this depends on whether the assets were owned as community property or separate property. Community property broadly covers the majority of things acquired during the marriage and separate property refers to property acquired by an individual before the marriage.
Do you need clarification on the benefits of creating your own will or using other estate planning strategies? Now is the perfect time to walk through these concerns on a phone call with a Pasadena estate planning attorney.