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By: Cava and Faulkner

What is the Legal Process of Transferring Property After an Individual Dies Without Will?

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Under California law, if an individual passes away and does not have a will, their property will go to their closest relatives. The laws that govern these legal procedures are known as “intestate succession” laws.

This option may sound appealing in that the descendant would be able to avoid legal fees, and heirs would collect their various inheritances. Nevertheless, it is not actually a beneficial arrangement for those who stand to inherit as the law makes the final determination as to how and how much they may inherit.

If you have questions or would like more information about creating a will, please contact Cava and Faulkner of Elk Grove, CA, and ask to schedule a free consultation.

What Type of Assets are Included in Intestate Succession?

Only assets that would have gone through your will if you had created one would be managed through intestate succession. Typically, this only pertains to assets that you only own alone that do not have another individual’s name attached to them.

However, assets that have a beneficiary or a co-owner are not affected by intestate succession, such as:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Payable on death bank accounts
  • Property that you own with another individual, also known as “joint tenancy” or community property with the right of survivorship.
  • Any property or assets that are in a living trust.
  • Funds in a 401(k), IRA, or any other type of retirement account

Does a Spouse Automatically Get Most of the Assets if There is No Will?

What a spouse inherits from a deceased spouse who leaves no will largely depends on how they owned their property. If your property was acquired together, then it is considered to be community property. Any property that was acquired before marriage is separate property.

A spouse is entitled to inherit all of the community property left behind and all or a portion of separate property. How separate property is divided is largely determined by whether or not the descendant has children, living parents, siblings, or other extended family members. If so, they may be legally entitled to share in the separate property.

What if You are Legally Separated and Your Spouse Dies Without Leaving a Will?

California law dictates that if you and your spouse are “legally separated” and the spouse dies without a will, you do not inherit. However, this does not mean that if you and your spouse are simply living apart that you cannot legally inherit from their estate.

In order to be considered legally separated, one spouse has gone through legal procedures to make their intent known to end the marriage. Even if you both maintain separate households, this does not automatically disqualify you from inheriting.

How Can Your Law Firm Help Me If My Family Member Died and Did Not Leave a Will?

The attorneys of Cava and Faulkner of Elk Grove, CA, have a vast amount of experience in handling all types of issues that pertain to wills and estates. If you are uncertain as to what the future holds and how your inheritance may be affected, please contact our law offices by calling (979) 596-4088 and ask to schedule a free consultation. We will be happy to answer your questions and address any concerns that you may have.