Many Americans pass away without a will, which is called dying intestate. In this circumstance, what they have left behind is distributed during intestate succession. Rather than decide who they want their assets to go to, the state decides. In most states, the decedent’s closest family members will receive what they left behind, which many would want. However, the drawback is that beneficiaries must undergo an expensive court process known as probate.
Intestacy Laws in California
California makes a clear distinction between community property and separate property. Community property encompasses assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Conversely, separate property consists of assets obtained outside of the marital union.
In California, if a couple has one child, a spouse inherits all community property and half of the separate property. Their child or grandchild inherits the rest. However, if there are two or more children, the surviving spouse inherits all community property and a one-third share of the separate property. The remaining portion is divided equally among the children. Half-siblings with a common parent are regarded as full siblings, and children born after the decedent’s passing are considered legitimate heirs.
Repercussions of Dying Intestate
The complexities of intestacy can escalate, particularly in cases where families are blended and deviate from the conventional nuclear arrangement. For example, standard intestacy regulations might inadvertently exclude stepchildren, foster children, children in the adoption process, and other individuals without blood ties.
Intestacy laws overlook specific situations. For example, a beneficiary reliant on financial assistance could be disqualified from continued benefits of an estate’s dispersal. Such a situation is easily avoided by placing assets in a trust for that particular income-dependent person. Furthermore, some parents do not want their wealth distributed equally among their children. However, intestacy laws at the state level prevent uneven distribution and the deliberate exclusion of a child from inheritance.
Additional Intestacy Issues
When someone passes intestate, they leave many decisions to the state that go beyond who inherits their wealth. In particular, without a proper estate plan, there are no instructions for end-of-life care, funeral arrangements, or who is trusted to care for minor children. Additionally, small business owners can lose control of what happens to the business.
Given the potential expenses associated with the probate process, the incurred costs can deplete funds and assets that would otherwise have been passed down to beneficiaries. In addition to being expensive, it’s a lengthy process. Therefore, there is typically quite a delay before loved ones receive their inheritance. The stress of this process can make family conflict and arguments between heirs more likely.
Avoid Leaving the Fate of Your Legacy in the Hands of the State
We cannot control death. Despite this, we can manage our legacy through estate planning. Crafting a simple estate plan provides peace of mind that your wishes are adhered to. Refrain from entrusting the fate of your legacy to state regulations; contact the expert estate planners at Law & Stein today.