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When you can’t find the decedent’s will

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2023 | Probate Litigation |

Before the beneficiaries get their inheritance or creditors get paid what the decedent owed them, the probate court in California must validate the decedent’s will and close out their estate. If there is no will, the court will apply California’s intestacy laws to determine how to deal with the decedent’s assets.

When you can’t find the will

The last best gift you can give to your dead loved one is to respect and fulfill their wishes. Before letting the court take control of what happens to their property, it’s important to conduct a thorough search for any will or other estate planning documents they might have created. This includes looking through financial records and safety deposit boxes and contacting family members or friends who may know the decedent’s wishes. If you cannot locate any such documents after conducting an exhaustive search, you must take the necessary steps to start the probate process without the will.

Probate without a will

You can start the probate litigation process in California if you are an interested party or a beneficiary of the deceased’s estate. You can do this by submitting the deceased’s death certificate to their county of residence court. The judge will appoint an estate administrator to manage and distribute the assets according to California’s intestacy laws.

These laws determine who will receive the deceased’s property, taking into account their marital status, surviving children and any other legal heirs. It is important to note that if the administrator cannot identify any surviving relatives or heirs, the estate will pass on to the state.

A will is not the only estate planning document Texans can use. Of course, there are other tools that have more power. So, if there’s no will, consider things like joint tenancy, beneficiary designations in retirement or investment accounts, payable-on-death accounts and life insurance policies before letting the intestacy laws determine the distribution of the assets.