What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Before you create an estate plan, you should understand what will happen if you don’t. How will your property be distributed? Who will get your property? What costs will be involved? How big of a headache will it be for your family? If you die without a will, or die intestate, what will happen?

Here’s What You Need to Know

If you die without a will in California then state law will decide how the assets that would’ve been passed along through your will is to be divided. In other words, it will only affect the property that you own alone and that is not otherwise accounted for in a trust or other estate planning tool.

Without a will, you can typically expect your property to go to your:

  • Spouse if you have no children, parents, or siblings.
  • Children if you have no spouse, parents, or siblings.
  • Parents if you have no spouse, children, or siblings.
  • Siblings if you have no spouse, children, or parents.
  • Spouse and children if you have both. Typically your spouse will inherit all of your community property and a portion of your separate property. Your children will inherit the rest.
  • Spouse and parents if you have both, but no children. Typically, your spouse will inherit all of your community property and one half of your separate property. Your parents will inherit the rest of your separate property.
  • Spouse and siblings if you have both, but not children or parents. Typically, your spouse will inherit all of your community property and one half of your separate property. Your siblings will inherit the rest of your separate property.

Of course the State of California will also distribute your property according to a set formula if you die without a surviving parent, spouse, child, or sibling.

There Is an Easier Way

You do not have to die intestate. Instead, you can control not only how much of your estate goes to an individual relative, but also what specific property goes to each relative. For more information about how to do this, read our FREE pamphlet, The Ten Things You Must Know Before Creating (or Amending) Your Will or Trust.

 

James F. Roberts
Founder and owner of the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, a premiere estate planning law firm