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What Happens if I Die Without an Estate Plan in California?

 Posted on July 12, 2022 in Estate Planning

CA estate lawyerAs we mentioned in our last blog post, having an estate plan in place can go a long way toward protecting both you and your loved ones. It is also important to discuss what can happen if you pass away without an estate plan. While creating a trust leaves you - and later, your chosen trustee - in control, you will have no say in what happens to your estate should you pass away without a plan. Your family members will have no choice but to go through probate. Probate is long, complicated, and often costly. However, going through it is the only way to distribute a decedent’s assets in the absence of an estate plan. Avoiding intestate probate is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of estate planning.

Consequences of Dying Without an Estate Plan

Those who pass away without an estate plan are termed “intestate.” During intestate probate, your family members will likely need to hire an attorney to guide the process. Because you did not leave any instructions for how your property should be distributed, California state law will control who gets what. Our state’s intestacy laws favor immediate relatives - mainly your spouse and children, or sometimes your parents.

Your closest relatives may or may not be the ones you want to inherit your entire estate. Unfortunately, intestacy law does not care if you have not spoken to your adult son in over 20 years, or whether you are estranged from your spouse.

No one other than your closest relatives will be able to receive anything. Most people have at least a few items that they would like to go to either a more distant relative like a favorite cousin, or to a close friend. Even if an item has great sentimental value to a friend or was originally given to you by a friend, they will have no claim to the item.

Many Californians also like to make posthumous charitable donations. It can be very nice to know that when you are gone, some of your money will go toward helping a good cause, whether you are passionate about animal welfare or cancer research. This is simply not possible if you do not make an estate plan. Your closest living relatives may or may not decide to honor what they think your wishes would be in this regard.

Even if you do intend for your closest relatives to inherit your entire state - which is generally the norm - the process of intestate probate will not be easy on them. It could take well over a year and it could significantly diminish the amount they ultimately receive. It is much better to have an organized plan in place so things go smoothly.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney

Law Office of David Schechet is skilled at customizing individual estate plans for each client. Our experienced Los Angeles estate planning lawyers make it our top priority to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected. Contact us at 800-282-4731 for a free consultation.



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