Wills

Will Basics

When an individual dies having made a valid will or trust, the decedent is said to have died testate.

When an individual dies having made a valid will or trust, the decedent is said to have died testate. When an individual dies without having made a valid will or trust, the decedent is said to have died intestate.

California has a statutory scheme outlining the distribution of property to the decedent’s heirs, also known as heirs at law.

If the decedent has no heirs, the assets will escheat to the state.

California Statutory Scheme

Generally speaking, the statutory scheme provides that a surviving spouse generally receives the entire estate unless there are living children.

  • A surviving spouse and living children typically share the estate, but if any of the children are predeceased, the decedent’s grandchildren may inherit the share that their parent would have received.
  • The decedent’s parents and siblings are typically next, but if none are living, then aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins are next in line.
  • Those further down on the list usually inherit nothing if there is an heir with a closer relationship according to the intestacy statute.

Benefits of a Will

Having a will does not avoid probate, but it:

  • designates guardians for minor children,
  • can designate how assets are to be distributed,
  • can help keep family out of conflict, and
  • can create testamentary trusts.

A will plans for death only. There are also certain mental and formal requirements for a will to be valid.

Request a call back.