Probate proceedings are often very predictable. After all, many people invest a lot of time and effort in creating a thorough estate plan. Their loved ones know exactly what their wishes were and who should receive what property. They simply need to follow the probate process to reach the point where they can distribute those assets to the beneficiaries.
However, not every estate in California is predictable. Some people die with no will or estate planning documents, leaving their family members wondering what will happen to their property. What is the probate process for an estate without a will?
The courts will apply state law if there is not a will
California has very clear rules about what happens to someone’s property if they die without an estate plan. Intestate succession laws describe exactly how the courts should distribute someone’s property when they do not have testamentary documents.
Family relationships are usually what entitle people to an inheritance from an intestate estate. Spouses typically receive inheritance rights, as do children. When someone married dies, whether their spouse is the biological or stepparent of their children will determine the allocation of their assets to their family members.
Those who die without a spouse or children will usually pass their property to their parents or other immediate family members. In rare cases where there are no surviving family members, what someone leaves behind when they die may eventually become the property of the state of California.
Understanding what to expect from the probate process if someone died without a will can help you feel better prepared for court.