• The Rules of Intestate Succession in California

    One of the many reasons why it’s so important to consult an estate planning attorney is that if you die without a will in Tracy or Livermore, the state rules of intestate succession will determine what happens to your assets. If you have a close relative who died intestate, or without a will, you can consult a lawyer regarding the rules of intestate succession.

    Exempt Assets

    Not all assets are distributed via wills. These assets are exempt from the rules of intestate succession. These assets include life insurance benefits, retirement account funds, and all assets that have been transferred to a living trust. Payable-on-death bank accounts, transfer-on-death securities accounts, and transfer-on-death vehicles are all exempt. Additionally, jointly owned property such as the family home is not distributed via a will; the co-owner will automatically assume full ownership.

    Spousal Inheritance

    Assets that are subject to the rules of intestate succession are distributed according to which relatives are still living. Surviving spouses often receive most of the property. If a decedent has no living children, siblings, or parents, then the spouse inherits everything. If the decedent has a living spouse and children, then the spouse will inherit all of the community property and either one-half or one-third of the separate property. When a decedent leaves behind a spouse and parents, then the spouse inherits all of the community property and one-half of the separate property. If no parents survive, but the spouse and siblings do, then the spouse inherits all community property and one-half of the separate property. The siblings inherit the rest of the separate property.

    Children’s Inheritance

    If the decedent’s only survivors are his or her children, then the children will inherit everything in the estate. If the children and the spouse survive, then the children will only inherit one-half to two-thirds of the separate property, but none of the community property. These guidelines are applicable to adopted children, who are legally treated the same as biological children. Biological children who were placed for adoption will not receive a share of the inheritance, unless they were adopted by the decedent’s spouse.