Misinformation abounds when it comes to inheritances and estate planning. You probably know that having a last will is important, especially if you have assets to pass on to others when you die, like real estate or investment accounts.
Plenty of people think they know the rules about probate and can give bad advice to others. For example, some people claim that the state of California will receive all of your assets if you die without a last will.
Is that true? What happens to your property if you don’t have an estate plan when you die or if the courts throw out your estate plan because of a challenge against it or a violation of the law in your documents?
California state law has rules for people who die without last wills
If you die unexpectedly without an estate plan, your property will probably have to go through probate court. An inventory of your assets and records about your family relationships will help people establish their rights to certain property from your estate.
Intestate succession laws dictate who receives what from your assets when you die without a written record of your wishes. Spouses have a statutory right to inherit certain property. However, they may have to share assets with your children. There are different rules for families where spouses share kids as compared with blended families where the surviving spouse may be a stepparent.
If someone doesn’t have a spouse and never had children, their parents may inherit their property. More distant relatives including siblings or even cousins may inherit when there aren’t closer living relatives. Only in circumstances where the state cannot locate any living family will California eventually become the beneficiary of an intestate estate.
Thinking about your wishes puts you in control
The probate courts will have the ultimate decision-making authority about who receives which assets if you die without an estate plan.
Especially if you have a big family, substantial personal property or assets that hold emotional value, a careful estate plan is important not just for you but also for the people you love. Committing your wishes to writing in a comprehensive estate plan will give you peace of mind and help preserve the legacy you want to leave for others.