The high cost of dying without a will and estate plan in California
California intestacy laws include default presumptions about how you probably want your property distributed, as if you had written a last will and testament before you died. The intestacy laws’ presumptions are applied to your estate after you die unless you have a valid will or other estate planning instrument in place. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died “intestate.”
The best time to start an estate plan is when you are happy and healthy.
According to California’s intestacy laws, if you die before your husband or wife, a certain portion of your property will go to your spouse. The extent of that portion depends on a number of factors. If you die without any estate planning documents, your spouse will receive all of the community property, which is generally all property earned by the labor of either spouse during marriage. Everything else is usually classified as separate property.
Separate property is distributed based on your living relatives and descendants, as specified by California’s intestacy laws:
- If you die without any living descendants, siblings, or parents, then your spouse will receive all of your separate property.
- If you die with one descendant, one of more living parents, or one or more living siblings, then your spouse will receive half of your separate property.
- If you die with more than one living child (or living descendants of more than one child), your spouse will receive one-third of your separate property.
If you die and are survived by children, your children or other descendants will receive everything that was not already received by your spouse. If you die without a spouse, then your children or other descendants receive everything.
Obviously, dividing your estate amongst your descendants can be a complex process. And for most people, California’s intestacy laws do not perfectly match their specific intentions. You can avoid these problems by creating a will and estate plan to suit your needs and wishes.
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