What Are Siblings’ Rights After Parents’ Death?

If your sibling dies without a will, their surviving spouse, domestic partner, and children are first in line to inherit. In fact, if there is no will, siblings will only inherit if there are no surviving children, grandchildren, or parents.

What are siblings’ rights after parents’ death?

If your sibling passes away and does not leave a will, siblings are somewhat low in inheritance priority. If one or both of your parents are still alive, California’s intestacy laws won’t entitle you to anything. However, if your parents have passed away, you may inherit if your deceased sibling has no living spouse, domestic partner, children or grandchildren. In these situations, all surviving siblings have equal rights to receive an inheritance.

What are inheritance rights of siblings?

In general, siblings have no legal rights to inherit their deceased sibling’s property. If your sibling left a will and did not include you in it, it’s improbable that you will inherit anything. However, if you were disinherited, meaning you were named in a previous will but excluded from the most recent will, you may be able to override your disinheritance if you can successfully challenge the will’s validity.  You will need to pursue a will contest to enforce your rights.

Another way you could end up with an inheritance when you are left out of the will is if all the named beneficiaries are deceased. Depending on what family members are still living, you may be entitled to receive your sibling’s assets through California’s intestacy laws as described previously.

What are half-siblings rights after their parent’s death?

California intestacy laws give half-relatives the same legal rights as full-blooded relatives. This means that half-siblings have the same inheritance rights as full siblings. Even if your shared parent has passed away, you will be treated exactly the same as a full-blooded sibling when it comes to inheriting from a deceased sibling.

What is intestate succession?

Intestate succession is the process of distributing estate assets when an individual dies without a will, or when they have a will, but all named beneficiaries are deceased. In California, the intestate succession laws (California Probate Code §§6400-6455) control how your sibling’s estate property will be distributed if they pass away and don’t have a will.

However, it’s important to note that intestacy laws only apply to assets that would have been disposed of by a will if one existed. Excluded assets are generally owned jointly or name a beneficiary upon the owner’s death, so the surviving co-owner or the beneficiary will inherit them. Those assets are commonly referred to as “non-probate assets”, “non probate transfers” or “payable on death transfers.”  Also, assets owned in trust generally are not part of the probate estate. 

Let’s look at a few examples of how California intestacy laws would distribute your deceased sibling’s assets depending on the specific circumstances.

  • If your sibling was married with surviving children, the spouse and the children would share the assets. As a sibling, you would not inherit anything.
  • If your sibling was married with no surviving children or grandchildren and at least one surviving parent, the surviving spouse and parent would inherit the assets. As a sibling, you would not inherit anything.
  • If your sibling was unmarried but had children, all estate assets would pass equally to the children, or to surviving grandchildren if one or more children predeceased your sibling.  As a sibling, you would not inherit anything.
  • If your sibling was unmarried and had no surviving children or grandchildren, your parents would inherit everything.  As a sibling, you would not inherit anything.
  • If your sibling was married with no surviving children, grandchildren, or parents, the spouse would be entitled to the community property and one-half of your sibling’s separate property. All siblings would equally split the remaining one-half of the separate property.
  • If your sibling was unmarried with no surviving children, grandchildren, or parents, the siblings would share the entire estate equally.

As you can see, there are limited situations where you can inherit as a sibling under California’s complex intestate succession laws. If your sibling has passed away without a will, a knowledgeable estate lawyer can help you understand who will inherit your sibling’s property and how much each beneficiary will receive.

When should I contact an estate attorney?

If you have been disinherited from a sibling’s will, or your sibling passes away without a will, you should contact an estate attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you seek guidance, the higher your chances of securing your rightful inheritance.

While you typically cannot challenge inheritances awarded according to California’s intestate succession laws, you may be able to file a claim to receive more than your mandated intestate share. An estate attorney can explain your legal rights and advise you on the strength of your case and how you should proceed. 

Do I need an estate attorney near me?

Whether your sibling died with or without a will, the case will likely be handled in the probate court in the county where they passed away. We always recommend working with an estate attorney who regularly practices in the county where the hearings will be held, even if you live elsewhere. If your sibling died in Los Angeles, California, an L.A. estate attorney will typically be more familiar with the rules, laws, and practices of the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division than an estate attorney near you.

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.

Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

Read More:
The Guide to Sibling Inheritance Laws and Rights
The Guide to Family Trust Embezzlement and Stealing
What is an Affidavit of Heirship?
The Guide to Mediation of Estate Disputes
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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