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What Happens to Your Property When You Don’t Have a Will in California?

Estate planning can be an uncomfortable, intimidating topic for many people. However, you must deal with these issues when you have the chance. Far too many people put off crafting a solid plan until it is too late to do so.

This article is here to show you what could happen if you pass before creating a solid Last Will & Testament.

Intestate Succession

Without a will, your property falls into something called “intestate succession.” Intestacy laws then determine how your assets will be distributed, not you.

Essentially, intestate succession is a chain of people who automatically get your property when you have no estate plan. For instance, if you are not married, but you have children, the children get everything. If you are married with children, your spouse gets half your property, and the kids must split the rest evenly. This chain continues further, eventually including aunts, uncles, and other distant relatives.

Potential Consequences of Intestate Succession

State Distribution

The government decides who gets your property, not you.

Family Disputes

In the absence of a clear will, disputes can arise regarding the distribution of assets. This can lead to conflicts, strained relationships, and legal battles, leading to emotional distress and financial strain for all involved.

Unintended Beneficiaries

We’ve all heard stories or seen movies where someone suddenly inherits millions from a distant relative they never met. Intestate succession may result in assets going to individuals you may not want included in your estate plan. Perhaps you have a close-knit group of friends that you regard as family, and you have little to no connection with your blood relatives. Intestate success excludes your long-time, live-in boyfriend, your best friend’s children, etc.

Lengthy Probate Process

Without a will, the probate process can become more complex and time-consuming. The court may appoint an administrator to handle the estate, locate and assess assets, pay off debts, and distribute the remaining assets to heirs. This can result in delays and increased costs, leaving your beneficiaries with less than they expect.

Limited Control

When you pass without a will, you have no say in how your assets are distributed.

Your Assets Could Go to the State

If you do not have living relatives, your property could potentially end up belonging to the government.

To avoid these consequences, consult with an estate planning attorney and create a comprehensive will that clearly outlines your wishes today.

What Could Happen to My Children if I Don’t Have a Will?

With a solid will in place, you can name a guardian to care for your kids if you unexpectedly pass.

Without a will, the process becomes much more complicated. In such cases, the court system will determine who takes on the responsibility of guardianship.

In the best-case scenarios, a loving, close friend or relative can plead for guardianship. Generally, courts want to place kids in familiar, comfortable, loving environments. They can, however, deny these pleas.

A court has the right to appoint guardianship to a licensed guardian. This person could be a total stranger, and the court could even split the kids up among different guardians.

Steps You Can Take Now

Decide what property to include in your will. Make a list of your assets, such as real estate, investments, bank accounts, and personal belongings. Then, consider which of these you want to go to someone else.

Decide who will inherit your property. A will allows you to give your property to anyone you choose. This can include family members, friends, or charitable organizations. If you want, you could leave everything to someone you barely know. In your plan, be clear and specific about who should receive what.

Choose an executor. The executor is the person who handles the estate. This job includes paying off leftover debts and transferring property to its new owners. Select someone you trust to carry out the instructions in your will.

Choose a guardian for minor children. Discuss this responsibility with the chosen individual(s) beforehand. Make sure to choose someone willing and able to give the kids a safe home where they can thrive.

Consult with an attorney. Seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer. They can help you navigate the complexities of creating a will and ensure compliance with state laws.

Consider creating a living trust. A living trust can help avoid probate and provide more privacy for your estate. Consult with your attorney to determine if a living trust aligns with your goals.

Review and update your will periodically. Too many people create their will and forget about it later. Life circumstances change over time, so you must review and update your will regularly. It should always reflect your current wishes and include changes in assets or beneficiaries.

The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates has spent years helping clients create solid wills that are difficult to challenge. Don’t procrastinate on your estate plan. Contact us online today or call us right away at (916) 299-3936.