You have worked hard all your life, so you want to make sure your assets go to your loved ones when you die. If you put off having a will done, your assets will be left up to the intestate succession laws. Using this approach, probate will determine the heirs for your property. The process involves heirs answering several questions about the individual who died.

If There is Not a Spouse

Of course, the most prominent question is to determine whether the individual who died was married. If the answer to that is “no”, the distribution will follow a process with the children taking equal parts if they are members of the same generation. If you have no living children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the estate will go to your parents.

If at that point there aren’t surviving parents, the estate will be divided amongst siblings. If you have siblings who are dead and they were parents, their children will inherit the part of the estate that would have been inherited by the deceased siblings. Of course, the list continues to include grandparents, uncles and aunts, or cousins. The process is rather detailed and can be complicated.

If the Decedent Was Married

If you have a spouse and you die without a will, there is a different approach that is taken. The first thing considered is whether you and your spouse owned community property, separate property, or both. Community property is any assets that were acquired during the life of the marriage by work earnings. Any separate property is property that was owned before the marriage, any inheritances, or gifts. There are exceptions for these definitions in California law, so your assets can switch from being separate property to community property.

All community property will be transferred to the widow or widower. The separate property goes to the spouse if the decedent doesn’t have surviving children, parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews of a deceased sibling. The surviving spouse is awarded one-half the separate property if the deceased individual only had a single child or grandchildren from a dead child. If the decedent had more than one child, the surviving spouse gets one -third of the property and so forth.

A Last Will and Testament

With a last will and testament, you can leave your assets to whomever you choose. By doing this, you can prevent family disputes and ensure your property goes to the individual you want to receive it. To start your California estate planning in the North Bay, contact the Law Offices of Bridget Mackay.