What happens if my loved one dies without a will?

Despite frequent reminders about the importance of estate planning, many people in California die every year without having a will or other formal estate plan in place.

Therefore, it is quite possible that a family in the San Jose area may have to deal with the fact that their loved one left no directions as to how to divide his property. While California law does specify how property should get distributed, not having a will still makes estate administration more difficult.

The laws of intestate succession, which apply when a person has left no will, are in reality fairly detailed. Therefore, a family's specific questions should be directed to their attorney.

To highlight a couple of important points, however, one feature of California law is that, because California is a community property state, a surviving spouse will automatically receive one-half of all community property after her spouse passes away.

Additionally, the surviving spouse will receive 50% of the remaining property if the person who died had only one child or if the person had no children but does have surviving parents. If the person has more than one child, the surviving spouse received one-third of the remaining property. On the other hand, if the person who died has neither children nor surviving parents, the spouse receives the entire estate.

Another important point to remember is that these law do not apply only when a California resident leaves no will. They also apply if a person's will turns out to be invalid or if her existing estate plan does not dispose of all the person's property.

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