If someone dies without a will or a trust, they are said to have died intestate. According to the Probate Code sections on intestacy ( Sections 6400 et seq.), that person’s estate will be distributed to the persons specified in the Code. For example, if you die without a will and have a spouse and children, your estate will be distributed to them. If you have no spouse or children, it will go to your parents. If your parents are deceased, then it will go to your brothers and sisters, and on down the line until a relative is found.
But what happens if no heirs can be found? If someone dies with no living relatives, their assets will go the State of California who will auction off the property. Personal property is usually auctioned in the county where the decedent died. An interesting article in the LA Times recently told about the auctions held there several times a year. They are held in the City of Industry in the L A area. Huge crates contain the personal property divided into various categories.
Some of the interesting articles that have gone to auction include a 200 year old German violin, autographed memorabelia from the drummer for the rock bank Buffalo Springfield, classic Batman comics, and artwork claimed to be by Picasso. Sometimes the property which goes to the State can be of significant value. LA county had to dispose of an approximately $3.5 million estate, including homes in Malibu and Palm Springs, and a Rolls Royce alledgedly belonging to a Persian princess.
For people who have no relatives, estate planning is critical so that their estate doesn’t go the State. With a will or a trust, an estate can be left to a charity or to friends if you have no relatives. For a will or a trust or other estate planning needs, contact us at Roy M. Doppet & Associates.