If you are a California resident who has not yet made a will, you may have wondered about who will get your property should you die in an accident before you have had the opportunity to make your wishes known. The California Probate Code makes extensive provision for cases of intestate succession. This means that should you die without having made a will, the State of California determines who receives your property and assets.
California is a community property state. By law, half of all assets acquired during the course of your marriage or domestic partnership belongs to your spouse. Your separate property is all property which you acquired before the commencement of your marriage or domestic partnership or received as a gift during the course of it.
Intestate succession if you are married or in a domestic partnership
If you have no surviving biological or adopted children, parents, or siblings, your entire estate; i.e., your half of the community property, goes to your spouse. He or she will receive half of your estate if you have only one child or if you never had children but either or both of your parents survive you. In such a situation, your child and your parent(s) will get the other half of your estate.
Should your child(ren) and/or your parents predecease you, but had children of their own during their lifetimes, those people take their places in your line of succession. For instance, if one of your children predeceases you but had children of his or her own, your surviving grandchildren will receive that portion of your estate that would have gone to their deceased parent. Likewise, if both of your parents predecease you but had other children in addition to you, your surviving brothers and/or sisters will receive that portion of your estate that would have gone to your parents.
The Probate Code contains many other provisions covering every conceivable situation regarding your line of succession and the amount of your estate that each person would receive should you die without a will. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.