With or without a will, the assets and properties of a deceased individual will undergo probate and estate administration. The difference is that the testator’s wishes will take precedence if there is a will. If there is none, the courts will decide on the distribution according to California’s intestacy succession laws. For clarity, “intestate” means dying without a will.
So, how does the court proceed with the probate and estate administration without a will? There are three crucial steps:
- The probate court will appoint an administrator, called a personal representative, to manage the estate administration process.
- The court will identify the heirs according to classes of heirs under intestacy succession laws.
- The court will identify the estate’s distributable assets and decide how to distribute them.
One of the personal representative’s tasks is to collect and determine the value of the deceased’s assets and properties. Notably, not all assets are subject to probate, such as those with named beneficiaries like life insurance and living trusts.
Who gets their inheritance first?
Under California’s intestacy succession laws, the order of heirs based on inheritance rights is as follows:
- Surviving spouses and children
- Surviving parents and siblings
- Closer relatives
- Distant relatives
Relatives include aunts, uncles and cousins. Are friends and charity organizations part of the list of heirs? No. If the decedent had no surviving family and relatives, the entire estate will most likely go to the state. This is a considerably basic explanation of the order of inheritance. Certain scenarios can affect the estate’s distribution.
Without a will outlining the decedent’s wishes, family members can be confused as to what will happen to the estate. Fortunately, the default process of intestate succession applies and makes it possible for heirs to receive their inheritance even without a will.