What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

This question is frequently asked of many estate planning professionals. However, this is not much of a surprise in 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased Americans’ awareness of the need to have a will, living trust, or another similar end-of-life document prepared.

Yet only about 40% of the US population has put this plan into place. By most estimates, approximately 60% of Americans don’t have a will. Question is, what’s holding people back?

Death has traditionally been a taboo topic that individuals try to avoid. And while the subject may spark a wide range of emotions – it is important to discuss and prepare.

A legacy is one of the best gifts you can give to those you love. Failure to leave a will in time before you pass could have devastating consequences on your family. It can put your loved ones in a time-consuming, expensive, stressful process while they are already in mourning.

Whether you are 30 or 60, being proactive is the best approach to take.  At a minimum consider drafting a will that will benefit you in planning ahead.  If you own real estate you may be better served preparing a revocable living trust to avoid probate.  If you have a clear directive in place, you can rest assured that your wishes will be carried out when you pass away.

What is Intestate?

In the legal world, if you pass without a will, it’s called dying “intestate.” When this occurs, the intestacy law of the state where you reside determines how your assets will be distributed.

Intestate, or intestacy, varies from state to state, which underscores the importance of having a proper estate plan in place.

In California, the probate court will distribute your assets in accordance with California’s intestate succession law (Cal. Prob. Code § 6400.) The order of succession usually prioritizes your surviving spouse, followed by your children, then parents, siblings, and extended family members.

Here are just a few scenarios of how the property would be distributed based on California’s Intestate Laws if the deceased does not have a will:

  • Married with no children – Spouse inherits everything.
  • Not married but had children – Children inherit everything.
  • Had living parents but had no spouse or children – Parents inherit everything.
  • Had siblings but no living parents, spouse, or children – Siblings inherit everything and assets are split amongst them equally.
  • Was married and had two or more children – Spouse would inherit all of the community property and one-third of the separate property. The children would inherit the remaining two-thirds.

Consult with a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney

There is never a perfect time to take care of estate planning. However, you’ll feel much better once it’s done, and your loved ones will benefit more than you can imagine. Take the necessary step of creating a will with a qualified estate planning attorney in California.

Since estate planning can be quite complicated, it may be wise to seek assistance from a lawyer who has the knowledge necessary to guide you through this process. At Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd., our experienced attorneys carry over 90 years of combined experience helping clients form effective and efficient wills.

Founder attorney, Christopher E. Botti, is also a Board-Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law.

Allow us to stand up and fight for your rights, both in and out of court. Please feel free to contact us at (877) 585-1885 to schedule your first consultation today.

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. has offices in Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, Valencia, Ventura, Bakersfield, and San Luis Obispo, California.