Transfer of property is a complex legal matter, especially if there’s no will that shows what the deceased person wanted. In this case, the state’s law comes in, and the matter goes into the probate courts.
The probate courts are the courts that deal with the matter of estate. Then, the court distributes the property to the relatives such as the wife, children, parents, siblings, and so forth, as per California’s intestate succession law.
Below in this article, we’ll explain the legal process of property transfer after death without a will in North California. This will help you understand the complete legal process and what you should do afterward.
What Will Happen If A Person Dies Without A Will In North California?
A will is a legal document that individuals who have assets created to nominate who will inherit their property after their death. If there’s no will, the distribution of assets will be according to the law of the state of California.
For example, the court will consider all legal beneficiaries like spouses, children, parents, siblings, etc. However, there will be a priority order for the beneficiaries whom the court will prefer for the assets. The list of priority orders can be read below:
- Nieces and Nephews
- Aunts and Uncles
If the deceased person has an immediate family, like a wife and children, the property will go to them. In case of no wife and children, the property will go to parents; if there are no parents or siblings, it will go to uncles/aunts or cousins.
It’s important to note that if the deceased person has community property, it will only go to the surviving spouse. The parents, siblings, and other distant relatives can only get the assets from separate property.
Difference Between Community Vs. Separate Property
The difference between community and separate property is the community property is acquired during marriage. Separate property means the assets acquired before marriage and owned by only one spouse.
For instance, if someone passes away, leaving a spouse and parents, the assets are split this way: all community property goes entirely to the surviving spouse. While separate property would go 50% to the parents and the other 50% to the surviving spouse.
What Happens To The Non-Probate Assets?
There are many assets that don’t go into the probate court, such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, joint tenancy assets, POD accounts, etc. This is because these assets already have named beneficiaries, and they go to them. Here’s an example:
Money from retirement accounts or life insurance policies goes straight to the people the deceased person named as beneficiaries. Bank accounts labeled “payable on death” also smoothly go to the people named when the account holder dies.
How Do You Go Through Probate In California Without A Will?
The first thing to initiate the probate process in California is to file the probate case in court. Remember, it should be done within 30 days of the death. To file this petition, you need a death certificate and also have to pay the court case filing fee.
Since there’s no will present, the court will appoint someone as the estate administrator. The administrator will notify all beneficiaries, collect asset information, value the assets, gather details of debts, bills, and taxes, and will assist the court in distributing the assets.
What’s A Spouse Property Petition In California?
Spouse property petition is for the surviving spouse, who is also named as a beneficiary for specific assets. If you’re a spouse and named as a beneficiary, it’s best to file this claim as with it; you don’t have to go through the probate.
However, there’s one important point to consider: it’s only for the assets that come under the community property or when the spouse is named as a legal beneficiary. If these conditions aren’t met, the assets will go through the probate process.
In the probate process, the court will consider all beneficiaries and will distribute the estate as per the priority order from immediate family to distant relatives. The immediate family will be the first priority, but if there’s no one, then the assets go to distant relatives.
Transfer of property without a will in North California is quite complicated. In case of no will, the case goes into the probate court, and the judge decides who’ll inherit the property of the deceased person as per California’s intestate succession law.
The distribution of the property will be decided carefully. The court will consider which property comes under the community and separate property. For community property, the spouse will be considered the priority, while for separate property, all beneficiaries will be considered as priority.
To go through the difficult process of probate smoothly, you can hire the probate lawyers of our law firm. We have experienced lawyers who’ll guide you through the complexities of probate and ensure a fair and lawful distribution of assets.
Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.