What Happens to My Estate in California If I Don’t Have a Will?
By Gullotta Law Group on April 29th, 2020 in
Sonoma Wills & Trust Attorney
No one wants to pass away without an estate plan, and yet, a surprising amount of California residents pass away without any estate plans in place. This puts significant pressure on surviving family members. In addition to handling their own grief, they have to find out how to manage a loved one’s estate without any documents as guidance. Learn more about what happens to your estate if you pass away without a will and how you can avoid this situation.
What happens if I pass away without a will?
If you pass away without a will or any other estate planning documents in place, your entire estate follows intestate succession laws. In California, priority is given to surviving spouses and children. A selection of intestate succession rules can be found below:
- If you have a child but no spouse, your children inherit everything
- If you have a spouse and no children, your spouse inherits everything
- If you have a spouse and one child, your spouse gets all of your community property and half of your separate property, while your child gets half of your separate property
- If you have a spouse and multiple children, your spouse gets all of your community property and one-third of your separate property, and your children inherit two-thirds of your separate property
The laws go into greater detail to outline succession for people without children or spouses, with or without parents and siblings, and so on.
However, before your assets can be distributed, your estate will have to go through probate. This is a months-long process during which the probate court looks for assets, has them assessed, sends notices to creditors, and ensures that everything in your estate is accounted for. After all probate expenses and debts are paid, your assets are finally distributed.
Does everything follow the rules of intestate succession?
Certain assets do not follow the laws of intestate succession, including:
- Life insurance proceeds
- Trust assets
- Assets in transfer-on-death accounts
- Vehicles with transfer-on-death registration
- Property owned in joint tenancy
- Funds in retirement accounts
What happens if I die with a will but no trust?
Even if you have a will, your estate will go through probate. Your family will still have a long wait before they can access your assets.
Why does everyone say I need to avoid probate?
People who have gone through the probate process before know how expensive, time-consuming, and stressful it can be. The person named as the executor of the estate will be responsible for making an inventory of assets, getting a fair evaluation of each asset, tracking down creditors, sending the appropriate notices, and meeting strict deadlines. Additionally, probate fees will decrease the value of your estate. Use our probate calculator to find out how much probate fees could cost your family.
Do I really need an estate plan?
An estate plan saves your family time and money, which is crucial during a time that they are grieving your death. Estate plans are extremely flexible, and a skilled estate planning attorney will listen to your goals and help you develop a plan that accomplishes them.
How does an estate planning attorney help?
Experienced estate planning attorneys understand the variety of entities and documents that can be used to create a thorough estate plan. When you work with an attorney, you can detail your goals and explain how you want your estate to benefit your heirs. From there, they will create a plan, give you recommendations for minimizing expenses, and give you information on revising or updating your estate as life circumstances change.
Start Your Estate Plan Today With Gullotta Law Group
An estate plan ensures that everything you have worked so hard for continues to benefit your loved ones after your death. Take the first step now and reach out to Gullotta Law Group to set up a consultation. Contact us online or call our team at 707-938-7234 to get started.