Intestate succession refers to the process under California inheritance laws that details what happens to a person’s estate assets when that person dies without a last will and testament. California’s inheritance laws are straightforward and dictate how a loved one’s estate assets will be distributed after they pass without a will.
Unlike a last will and testament or trust, which can be challenged or contested, California’s intestate succession laws cannot. That being said, if you have a claim against an estate separate and apart from what you may receive under the California inheritance laws, you may pursue that to try and recover your claim in addition to what you might receive under the intestate succession laws. You would be best-served to retain a probate litigation attorney to advise you as to what your rights and best course of action are.
Intestate succession specifically refers to the order in which spouses, children, siblings, parents, cousins, great-aunts/uncles, second cousins twice removed, etc. are entitled to inherit from a family member when no will or trust exists. For example, in California, if a married individual passes away without a will, their community property – i.e. assets acquired during the marriage that belong to the marital estate, such as earnings, income, etc. – will be distributed to their surviving spouse. If the individual also has separate property, one-half of that separate property will be distributed to the surviving spouse if the couple has only one child, with the child entitled to the other half of the separate property. The surviving spouse will get one-third of the separate property if the couple have two or more children, with the children getting the other two-thirds.
California’s intestate succession laws apply to your deceased loved one’s estate assets. What does that mean? Estate assets include all the property owned by your loved one at their death other than property held in a trust (e.g. revocable living trust), property that is held in joint tenancy (e.g. real estate or bank accounts), or property that has a beneficiary designation (e.g. IRA’s or life insurance).
At RMO Lawyers, we see most problems and conflicts occurring between the biological children of the decedent, and a step-parent, i.e., when the decedent was married more than once. In these situations, emotions often dictate, especially early on, after your loved one has just passed. Many times the children have difficulty accepting that the new spouse, their step-parent, should be entitled to anything, especially where there was friction between them and the step-parent, or the marriage was new. As you can imagine, a variety of familial situations and relationships can cause create difficult emotional conditions that need to be addressed.
The State of California has clear intestate succession guidelines and processes for property distribution to a decedent’s spouse, children, siblings, and living parents. Here are the basics:
If this seems a bit complicated to understand that’s because it is, just give us a call and let us know your situation. We’re happy to answer your questions, and the consultation is free: (424) 320-9444
The short answer is no, you cannot contest or dispute intestate succession. That being said, there are claims that can be made that might help you obtain more than your intestate share of the estate. We help clients analyze these issues every day.
We recommend finding an experienced probate litigation attorney familiar with the county probate court in the county where the decedent lived. For example, if the decedent lives in Los Angeles, we recommend working with a probate litigation lawyer in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles probate litigation lawyer will generally be more familiar with the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division, versus an out of state attorney.
RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (424) 320-9444 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com