If you die in San Diego without a will or a trust, you are deemed to have died “intestate”. To die “intestate” means to die without a “testament” (a will) or a trust and your estate will have to go through the probate process where the Probate Court will determine where your estate will go. This can result in unintended results for some people and not what they would have wanted.
As an example, most people believe that if they are married and they die without a will or a trust, all their property will go to their surviving spouse. That is not the case in California. If you are married with children, your community property(essentially property acquired during the marriage) will go to your spouse, but only one-half of the separate property (property acquired before marriage or inherited during the marriage) will go to your spouse if there is one child of the marriage. If you have 2 or more children, your spouse will only receive one-third of the separate property. This can be an unintended result if the estate is small and the surviving spouse needs all the assets in the estate to live on. Furthermore, California inheritance laws only recognize relatives of the intestate decedent, so the Probate Court can never distribute any of the estate to charities or non relatives.
Here are 10 example of things you cannot do if you die intestate:
1. Leave any part of your estate to a friend.
2. Provide for a disabled child or other disabled beneficiary so as not to impact their public assistance.
3. Designate a guardian for your minor children.
4. Prevent a minor beneficiary from receiving all of his or her inheritance at age 18.
5. Leave any gifts to charity.
6. Disinherit someone who is your heir.
7. Designate who will receive your personal property such as jewelry, artwork, coins, etc.
8. Provide a life estate so that someone can live in your home after your death.
9. Leave any part of your estate to a non-adopted step-child or foster child.
10. Designate the ages and the terms under which your children or grandchildren will receive their inheritance.
To avoid unintended results upon your death and provide for your loved ones in any of the ways listed above, it is important to have a will or a trust. A will allows you to accomplish these objectives but a will has to go through the probate process which can be costly and time consuming. A living trust is a better way to specify who you want to inherit your estate without the time and expense of probate. The experienced estate planning lawyers at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation can assist you with implementing your wishes in the appropriate estate planning documents. Call us or e mail us for a complimentary in-house consultation.