Estate Planning

What happens to my estate if I don’t have an estate plan?

If you don’t have an estate plan, how your assets are divided up death depend on how your property was owned (eg. did you own it with someone that has a right to it) and what laws would apply.

Here are a few examples if you don’t have an estate plan set up:

  1. Community property will pass to the surviving spouse. California Probate Code 6401(a).
  2. Property that you hold as community property with right of survivorship will pass to the surviving spouse or surviving registered domestic partner. California Civil Code 682.1.
  3. Property that you hold as joint tenancy passes to the surviving joint tenant(s). California Civil Code 683.2(c).
  4. Investment funds like IRAs, 401ks, life insurance policies, pay-on-death accounts, and other funds where you can chose a beneficiary or beneficiaries will be paid on death to that beneficiary (or beneficiaries).

The rules regarding who gets your separate property depend if you have a surviving spouse and children. See California Probate Code 6401(c).

Also California Probate Code 6402 discusses who gets your estate if you have no surviving spouse, but do have surviving children, parents, siblings, etc. Under California’s intestacy laws, the decedent’s property will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs (i.e., the decedent’s closest family members) in shares generally determined by their degree of relationship to the decedent.

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