What Happens if a Person Passes Away Without a Will?

Drafting a last will and testament is a task that is on everyone’s to-do list. This document provides the courts with instructions on how a person desires to have their assets distributed upon their passing and is the backbone of a comprehensive estate plan. What happens, however, if a person passes away in California without having created a will?

Who Gets a Person’s Assets?

While many people believe that a person’s property will simply be inherited by the State, this is not the case. Instead, a person’s assets will be distributed in probate court according to California’s intestate succession laws. Under intestacy, a decedent’s property and possessions will be distributed to their closest living relatives.

If a person dies with:

  • Living children but no spouse, parents, or siblings: The children will inherit everything.
  • A living spouse but no children, parents, or siblings: The spouse will inherit everything.
  • Living parents but no children, spouse, or siblings: The parents will inherit everything.
  • Living siblings but no children, spouse, or parents: The siblings will inherit everything.
  • A living spouse and children: The spouse will inherit all community property and up to one half of separate property. Children will inherit up to two-thirds of separate property.
  • A living spouse and parents: The spouse will inherit all community property and half of separate property. The parents will inherit the other half of separate property.
  • A living spouse and siblings, but no parents: The spouse will inherit all community property and half of separate property. Siblings will inherit the other half of separate property.

How is Probate Administered Without a Will?

Probate administration without a will is similar to the process used when a will exists. Instead of an “executor,” an “administrator” is appointed by the courts. After selling a certain amount of the decedent’s assets to satisfy any outstanding debts and filing taxes, the administrator will oversee the process of appraising, cataloging, and distributing a person’s property according to intestacy.

If your loved one has passed away without a will, it is important you contact a knowledgeable probate attorney to simplify the complex legal process and guide you through the appropriate channels. A lawyer can handle any disputes that should arise on your behalf and help you pursue the smoothest resolution possible.

Contact a Los Angeles Probate Lawyer

At Mansell & Mansell, APC, our top-rated probate attorneys have served countless clients throughout Los Angeles area and can provide the trusted legal support you need during this difficult time. With more than 90 years of collective legal experience and having earned an AV® Rating by Martindale Hubbell®, we have the knowledge and experience to solve even the most complex probate matters with ease.

To find out more about how our team of Super Lawyers® can help you, call (888) 268-0471 today.