Whether a parent succumbed after a long period of illness or died more suddenly, your first concern is no doubt the relational and emotional loss and not the financial consequences. But understanding to whom the parent’s property should be distributed and the legal process in California by which that occurs is a question you will need to address in the near term, especially if other parties are attempting to take that property. If a valid will is in place, that will should direct how the property should be distributed, but, when there is no will, the process can become somewhat more complicated.
Can You Be Sure That There is No Will?
The first step is to truly determine whether a parent did actually leave a will of which you may not have been aware. There is no requirement in California that a will be publicly filed anywhere, which means a will that a parent validly executed but left in a dusty file cabinet could still be in effect. Thus, it is important to take all possible steps to determine whether a will was made at some point and if it can be located, which can include working with a probate attorney to locate such a will.
The Law That Applies When There is No Will
Assuming that no will was ever created, then the California state intestacy laws will control the distribution of a parent’s assets. The intestacy laws dictate that surviving family members will receive property in certain proportions based on each member’s specific relationship to the deceased. If the parent’s current spouse is surviving, that spouse will receive all of the community property (the property earned or acquired by the couple while the marriage existed) and half of the deceased’s separate property (all property that is not community property) with the remaining portion divided between other descendants. If the deceased was not married at the time of death, then all property will be divided between descendants. Talk to an estate lawyer to determine the precise calculations that would be applied in your situation.
Going to Probate Court in CA
Although the division of property by intestacy laws is somewhat straightforward in theory, the actual means by which the property will be divided among descendants can be quite complicated in practice. This is especially the case where most of a parent’s wealth is tied up in a single asset such as a home, which might have to be sold to allow for a division of assets to be distributed.
To accomplish this, where there is real estate or otherwise significant amount of assets ($150,000 and up) left by a parent, a probate court proceeding will then occur in which a judge appoints an administrator or executor to oversee the distribution of assets. To start the probate process, one person will have to petition the court, and all other interested parties (creditors and potential beneficiaries of an intestacy distribution, such as other family members) will have to be put on notice that the probate proceeding is occurring.
Working With Counsel in Probate Court is Recommended
During the probate case, creditors will stake claims for money that they feel is owed from the deceased’s estate and the administrator will make these payments as justified. The administrator will also work to see that the proper beneficiaries are paid. This includes the process of collecting and valuing all of the deceased’s estate, determining who is a proper beneficiary and who is not, and taking action to distribute assets to those beneficiaries, which can include liquidating assets such as real estate, vehicles, jewelry, and other personal property.
As part of this process, other parties may attempt to admit a supposed will to probate, and the parties will have to litigate to determine whether the will is valid or not. The probate process is quite complicated and interested parties are strongly encouraged to work with an attorney to make sure their property interests are protected.
Work With an Inheritance Recovery Attorney to Win Your Rightful Inheritance
If you have any reason to suspect that you are being intentionally or mistakenly kept from receiving your rightful inheritance, The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys are here to help. We have extensive experience in understanding and litigating the nuances and complexities of California probate code, and we have spent countless hours spent in the courtroom aggressively fighting on behalf of plaintiffs. We offer contingency pricing on will contest matters, meaning we collect no legal fee unless we win on your behalf. Contact one of the dedicated team members at The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys to see how we can help you in getting the recovery you deserve in your probate or trust matter.