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Intestate succession: Where will my assets go if I have no will?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | Estate Planning |

A will generally lets you decide who benefits from your assets after you pass away. This way, it helps reduce conflicts over matters like succession, inheritance and even taxes. But what if you pass on suddenly before you can write a will? This is where intestate succession comes in.

What is intestate succession?

Under California laws, intestate succession occurs when someone dies without a valid will. According to the state’s intestate succession rules, the court distributes your assets to your closest living relatives, such as your spouse, children, parents or siblings. For instance, if you have a spouse but no children, your partner will likely inherit all your assets.

Intestate succession laws provide guidelines for specific parent-child relationships; different rules may apply to foster children, stepchildren and others. There are also certain types of assets that intestate succession covers. These matters are often complex, but an attorney and other estate planning professionals may be able to help with understanding them.

Why might you want to avoid intestate succession?

Some people have reservations about intestate succession for the following reasons.

  • Lack of control over beneficiaries. Intestate succession does not usually consider your relationship with your relatives. Your assets might go to your estranged spouse, no matter how bitter your relationship with them was, instead of friends who supported you until the end.
  • Too much time. Several factors can prolong the probate process. These might include confusion over the value of your property and lawsuits by relatives who want to contest the ownership of your assets.
  • High costs. Your relatives may be subject to the full brunt of steeper taxation laws by the time the intestate succession process kicks in. Moreover, they might also have to spend more on professional fees and other expenses if probate takes longer.

In general, you can avoid intestate succession and the issues that come with it by writing a valid will. As no one really knows when they will die, it is likely a good idea to start as soon as possible. If you need assistance, an estate planning attorney can help ensure that your will is enforceable and covers all your bases.