Many people do not have a Will. In like manner, many people die without a Will. As a result, when a person who lives in California passes away, their property and estate will be distributed based on inheritance laws found in Division 6 of the California Probate Code. More specifically, California inheritance laws also called intestate succession laws, provide how the decedent’s property passes to his/her immediate family members or other heirs down the line of genealogy.  Keep in mind, assets held in joint tenancy or as community property with survivorship will go to the surviving party. In the same fashion, beneficiaries appointed on insurance policies and retirement accounts will also receive their benefit outside the probate process.

A People’s Choice has helped thousands of people settle the probate estate of a loved one. In this regard, below is an overview of California inheritance laws which describe what you may receive from your loved one’s estate if they die without a will.

“I can’t say enough about the level of service and professionalism I received working with A People’s Choice. Emails were always responded to quickly and thoughtfully. They really care about the process and helping you get the best result with no up-selling. Of course they can’t provide legal advice, but I was referred to an attorney when I needed some questions answered who was very reasonable and easy to get a hold of as well. The process played out according to plan and I ended up saving a lot of money by going with A People’s Choice over an attorney.”

M. Rice

“I am writing to give A People’s Choice my utmost recommendation. I live in New England and found them on the web. After speaking with a staff member on the phone I had the confidence to give them my business. A People’s Choice handled my probate case with great professionalism and knowledge. My case turned out to be more complicated than originally believed and the staff walked me through each step. They always responded promptly to my email questions. In the end, their service was exactly what I hoped for; they saved me thousands of dollars and allowed me to do it from across the country. They were truly a pleasure to work with.”

K. Levenson

“A People’s Choice helped us throughout our entire year-long probate making the process very easy and manageable while at the same time saving us thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. Not only were they extremely friendly and fast to respond to our questions but they made the process simple enough that we hardly ever had to contact the courthouse directly and we even had a hearing done without an appearance. Would highly recommend A People’s Choice to anyone!”

A. Vuckovich

“A People’s Choice is a very responsible and effective company, staff there is very nice and replied to all my questions by email quickly. With their help, I accomplished the probate in 8 months successfully and saved at least $10,000.00 in attorney fees, so I strongly recommend everybody to contract with A People’s Choice and let them to help you with your legal documents. You will be very satisfied with their work as I did!!!!”

C. Chiu

“A People’s Choice walked me through the entire probate process. They are so professional and helpful. Thank you to the staff for your guidance and patience to talk me through such difficult time. You made the process very smooth for me. I am so glad that I found you.” 

Sandie K.

“The staff at A People’s Choice made a scary Probate pretty much stress free. I would send an email with a question I had thought of over the weekend with the expectation that I would get an answer on Monday. Lo and behold, I often got an answer within minutes! We are very pleased and will be referring our friends/family to A People’s Choice!”

L. Garrett

“Thanks to A People’s Choice I was able to get through a probate matter very smoothly. I had not one issue with the Courts. They guided me through the whole probate until the very end. I live up north but that didn’t matter, A People’s Choice did an excellent job keeping me informed with everything that I needed to do. I saved THOUSANDS of dollars by going with A People’s Choice. You can’t go wrong, know matter what your needs are. I saved a lot of money by not having to pay out a percentage to any attorney. I want to thank the staff at A People’s Choice for the great help they give to everyone in their times of need. Like I was ! Thank You.”

R. Leonard

When my father passed away without a will, we needed help handling the transfer of his assets. Since there weren’t significant assets, I didn’t want to spend too much on the legal paperwork. A People’s Choice offered just the right service we needed. In particular, the staff was very responsive to our document filing needs, helping to turn around corrections almost immediately. They helped to ease a tough situation.

Michael C.

“I used A People’s Choice for help with a probate matter. My grandfather died Christmas of 2016. He had a living trust but no one was able to find it. We went to A People’s Choice and we were able to do a probate affidavit to get what was left of my grandfather’s estate. Took two days for the documents to be prepared and the bank accepted them without any questions. Sandy was the one who assisted us and we really appreciate the help that was provided. A+ service.”

David R.

“I needed help understanding and filling out legal documents but I didn’t have enough money to pay for an attorney. I searched the internet for a short period of time looking for help and when I found A People’s Choice, I was relieved to know that I would get the exact service that I needed at an affordable price. The staff was very professional and helpful with my legal documents. They worked around my schedule and responded to my emails on a timely manner. They took care of all the paper work and filing and kept me posted. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your legal documents as you will get outstanding service at an affordable price. “

Sharon B.

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Understanding Community vs. Separate Property Distribution

Property purchased or acquired during the marriage is considered community property. On the other hand, assets acquired before marriage are separate property. California inheritance laws also consider gifts and inheritances given to a spouse during marriage as separate property. It is important to realize this includes gifts acquired during the marriage.

A spouse can obtain a community property interest in property in many different ways. For example, community property consists of the salary of the deceased person. Also, a spouse may have a community property interest in all real estate purchased during the marriage in the decedent’s name. Keep in mind, a spouse can have a community property interest in property not titled in both names! Alternatively, a spouse accumulates a “quasi-community property interest” in property when community funds pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance on pre-marital separate property. Finally, decedent’s personal property acquired during marriage is also considered community property. This includes property not titled as community property with right of survivorship.

Distribution of Property Under California Inheritance Laws

California inheritance laws determine who gets what when you die. In other words, California inheritance laws control what surviving heirs receive the decedent’s assets. For example, under California inheritance laws, if a person dies without a will, the laws will distribute their property as follows:

  1. Spouse but no children, parents, or siblings – The surviving spouse will receive all of his/her community property assets. Spouse and parents split separate property assets.
  2. Children but no spouse – Surviving children will receive all of his/her assets proportionately. For example, three surviving children would each inherit a 1/3 share of the estate).
  3. Spouse and children – Surviving spouse inherits all the community property and 1/2 of the separate property. The amount of separate property inherited depends on the number of surviving children.
  4. Parents but no children, spouse, or siblings – Surviving parents receive all the decedent’s assets
  5. Siblings but no children, spouse, or parents – Surviving siblings inherit the assets proportionately.
  6. Spouse and siblings, but no parents – Surviving spouse and siblings inherit the decedent’s personal property.

California’s intestate succession laws do not provide rights of inheritance for stepchildren. If the decedent has no surviving heirs, his/her property will escheat to the state. California law requires surviving heirs to outlive the decedent by 120 hours to receive an inheritance under intestate laws. Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to probate your loved one’s estate without a will.

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