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What happens when you die without a will in California

On Behalf of | May 25, 2023 | Probate |

Distributing a deceased person’s estate can become a complex process, especially when the deceased left no will. In California, the courts refer to this scenario as an “intestate” estate, with specific rules guiding the process.

Having a clear understanding of what to do in these scenarios can make navigating these issues easier.

Probate and intestate succession

In California, an estate typically enters probate when a person dies without a will. Without a will, California’s intestate succession laws govern the distribution of these assets. California designed its intestate succession laws to distribute the assets of the deceased in a manner that most people would outline in their will. These laws identify and allocate the assets to the closest relatives of the deceased. For instance, a significant portion of the estate usually goes to the surviving spouse.

The function of the probate court

The probate court takes on a crucial role in managing an intestate estate. The court appoints an administrator, also known as a personal representative, to handle the affairs of the estate. The duties of the administrator include gathering the assets of the deceased, settling debts and taxes and distributing the remaining assets following the state’s intestate succession laws.

Creating a will serves as the most effective way to avoid the uncertainties of intestate succession. By clearly stating how to distribute assets, a will can ensure peace of mind and potentially prevent conflicts among surviving family members. However, if a loved one dies without a will, it becomes crucial to understand California’s probate and intestate succession laws.