Klamath Falls, OR asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: If both parents pass away and no will was completed, how is the estate handled? This is in California.

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3 Lawyer Answers
Robert Kane
Robert Kane
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Eagan, MN
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, intestate succession applies when an individual dies without a will. Other factors will dictate on how it should proceed.

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Julie King
Julie King
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Monterey, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The answer to your question will depend on a lot of information that is not contained in your question. For example: Did the parents own real estate? If so, was it titled in Joint Tenancy, Community Property, or in some other way? The way real estate is titled can impact how it is transferred after death. So, I will give you a general answer to your question. Estate planning is very fact-specific, meaning that each person's assets and titling are different, so what applies to one person's estate may not apply to another.

California law says that anyone who dies while owning assets with a gross dollar value of more than $184,500 must have a loved one file a Petition in Probate Court then go through a 1 - 4 year court process called "probate" BEFORE the assets can be inherited by family. ["Gross value" means, for example, if a house could be sold for $800,000, but there is a $600,000 mortgage on it, you use the $800,000 number.] The law dictates who inherits the deceased people's assets, since they did not choose beneficiaries in a trust or will while living. Whether probate will take one, two, three, four or more years depends on the county in which the probate takes place. Santa Clara County probates take a minimum of three years. Monterey County probates take about a year to 18 months because it is a small county.

On the other hand, if a person passes away and does not have assets with a gross value of more than $184,500, then the family needs to complete certain paperwork, but generally does not need to go through the complete probate process. I hope this information is helpful.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: If both parents pass away and no will was completed, their estate will be distributed according to California's intestate succession laws. This means that their assets will be distributed to their closest relatives, such as their children, siblings, and parents.

The specific order of distribution is as follows:

1. Surviving spouse

2. Children

3. Descendants of deceased children

4. Parents

5. Siblings

6. Half-siblings

7. Aunts and uncles

8. First cousins

If there are no living relatives in any of these categories, the estate will escheat to the state of California.

It is important to note that the intestate succession laws are complex and there are many factors that can affect how an estate is distributed. If you are dealing with an intestate estate, it is important to consult with an attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind if both of your parents have passed away without a will:

* You may be eligible for a death benefit from Social Security, even if you were not financially dependent on your parents.

* You may also be eligible for a death benefit from your parents' employer, if they had life insurance through their job.

* You may need to file a probate court case to administer your parents' estate. This can be a complex process, so it is important to consult with an attorney.

* You may also need to file a tax return for your parents' estate. This is usually done by the executor of the estate.

If you are dealing with the death of a loved one, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you through this difficult time. You can contact a grief counselor, a support group, or a legal aid organization for help.

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