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  • Writer's pictureDuisters Law, APC

Where does my property go if I die without a Will? Explaining Intestate Succession in California.

You may have heard the term "Intestate Succession." What does that mean? In California, there are specific Probate Codes (PRC 6400-6414) that govern what happens to property when someone dies without a will or trust.

It all comes down to who survived the decedent and how many survived the decedent. If the decedent was survived by a spouse, for example, the spouse is entitled to a portion of the estate, the percentage of which is determined by the property's character (marital property or "community property" vs. separate property). Click here for more information on community vs. separate property.

Under Probate Code 6401 a surviving spouse is entitled to one half of the community property owned by the decedent. For separate property, the surviving spouse is entitled to the following:

The entire portion if the decedent died without children, parents, siblings or nieces/nephews of a predeceased sibling.

One-half of the separate property where the decedent dies leaving one child or grandchildren from a predeceased child, or when decedent dies leaving surviving parents or siblings.

One-third of the separate property where the decedent dies leaving more than one child or one surviving child and the children of a predeceased child, or when the decedent dies leaving children of two or more predeceased children.

If the decedent dies leaving no surviving spouse, either due to divorce or the spouse died first, and the decedent leaves children, the children will inherit separate property as provided in Probate Code 6402. If decedent died without children, then his/her parents inherit if they are alive when decedent dies. If no parents, then to any surviving siblings.

Visit for more information on probate in California and how a living trust may be a better option for your family.

About the author: Duisters Law, APC - Family Law & Probate Attorneys

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