California Intestate Succession Laws
If any part of a California decedent's estate is not effectively disposed of by will, the intestate share will be distributed in the following order and manner:
1. Surviving spouse/domestic partner. In California, a surviving spouse or domestic partner is generally first in line to get any assets from the intestate estate, including any community property, quasi-community property, and separate property that belonged to the decedent.
The surviving spouse or domestic partner is entitled to the one-half of the community or quasi-community property that belonged to the decedent. In addition, the surviving spouse or is entitled to the following amounts of separate property in the estate:
* If there is no surviving issue (i.e., child), parent, sibling, or issue of a deceased sibling of decedent, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire intestate estate.
* If the decedent leaves a surviving child, children of that child if the child predeceases the decedent, parents, or siblings, the surviving spouse gets one-half of the intestate separate property.
* If the decedent leaves more than one child or children of a predeceased child, the surviving spouse gets one-third of the separate property in the intestate estate.
2. Heirs other than surviving spouse. Any part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse or domestic partner as indicated above, or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, passes as follows:
1. Decedent's descendants (e.g., children and grandchildren), per stirpes.
2. Decedent's surviving parent or parents equally.
3. Issue of decedent's parent or parents, split equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent (e.g., all decedent's siblings survive) or split per stirpes if unequal (e.g., some siblings survive and some are dead but survived by children).
4. Decedent's surviving grandparent or grandparents equally.
5. Issue of decedent's grandparents, per stirpes.
6. Issue of a predeceased spouse. To be eligible to real property, the former spouse cannot predecease the decedent by more than 15 years. For personal property, the former spouse cannot predecease the decedent by more than 5 years.
7. Decedent's next of kin in equal degree. If a claim is made through two or more different ancestral lines, those who claim through the ancestor nearest to the decedent are preferred over others.
3. State of California. If there is no taker under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate reverts (escheats) to the state of California.
California Intestate Succession Law Fun Facts
* Relatives of the half blood generally inherit the same share they would inherit if they were of the whole blood (except in certain cases involving the severing of the relationship between a child and the child's natural parent due to adoption).
* Relatives of the decedent conceived before his death, but born thereafter inherit, as if they had been born during the decedent's lifetime.
* Any person who fails to survive the decedent by 120 hours is deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of intestate succession (which means that the person generally doesn't get a share of the decedent's estate). If it cannot be established by clear and convincing evidence that the person who would otherwise be an heir has survived the decedent by 120 hours, it is considered that the person failed to survive for the required period. However, these rules don't apply if the end result is that the state of California gets the intestate estate.
* Evildoers beware! Any person who intentionally and feloniously kills the decedent cannot inherit any of decedent's assets or otherwise benefit from the killing. The murderer is treated as if he or she had predeceased the murdered decedent, therefore being entitled to nothing (except some jail time). Felonious and intentional killing of the decedent can be established by a criminal conviction or a civil trial based on a preponderance of the evidence.
* On a similar note, a person who physically abuses, neglects, or commits fiduciary abuse of a decedent who was an elder or dependent adult is also prevented from profiting after the decedent's death. Instead of inheriting from the decedent, the abusive person is treated as having predeceased the decedent (thus becoming ineligible to inherit).
* California's intestate succession laws, as well as other laws dealing with wills and decedents' estates, can be found in the California Probate Code.
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