When a person dies in California, his/her estate must go through the probate process in order for the estate’s property and assets to transfer to the surviving heirs. Filing a California probate without a will is a straightforward process and most people can do it without the help of an attorney. Read on to learn more about probating an estate without a will in California.

Applying for Probate When There is No Will or Will is Invalid

Probate is the legal process of transferring legal title of property from the estate of the deceased to his/her beneficiaries. When a person passes away with a will, the designated executor submits the will to court to be probated.  When a representative of the decedent, also known as the administrator, applies for probate when there is no will, the decedent’s estate will be distributed according to California’s intestate succession laws. Intestate succession laws also apply if a person passes away without having a valid will or if only part of his/her estate is covered by a valid will.

Under California intestate succession laws, a personal representative can be appointed to administer the estate. The administrator will be required to receive all legal claims against the estate, pay creditors, and manage the estate’s expenses. 

The administrator will be required to find all heirs to the estate. California probate laws will decide who is a legal heir. Once the legal heirs are determined, the probate court will identify what and how property or assets will be distributed between the heirs.

California Probate Intestate Succession; Who Gets Estate?

As mentioned above, under California probate intestate succession laws, the decedent’s legal heirs will receive a share of the decedent’s estate once probated. California probate laws provide that if the decedent was married with no children, his/her spouse will receive all of the property the two shared. If the decedent and his/her spouse had children, the spouse would receive all of the community property they owned, and the decedent’s separate property would be divided evenly between the spouse and children.

Here is an example to illustrate the intestate property division described above in a California probate without a will:

Bob and Jane were married for 25 years and had three children. They both owned two residential properties. As separate property Bob owned a collection of Corvettes. Bob passed away and did not have a will.  His wife, Jane and his three children survived him. In accordance with California’s intestate succession laws, Jane would receive Bob’s interest in their residential properties and become the sole owner. Bob’s separate property, the collection of Corvettes, would be divided between Jane and their 3 children. Each would receive a ¼ share interest in the Corvette collection.

The chart below describes the California probate intestate succession of property and assets of a decedent who dies without a will. Based on the decedent’s surviving relatives, we have identified the share a surviving relative may receive in the event his/her loved one passes away under California probate law:

Deceased RelativesProperty Distribution
Children only survive the deceasedThe deceased children will inherit the property and assets. The property will be distributed evenly between them.
Spouse only survive the deceasedThe deceased spouse will inherit his/her property and assets.
Parents only survive the deceasedThe deceased parents will inherit his/her property and assets.
Siblings only survive the deceasedThe deceased siblings will inherit the property and assets. The property will be distributed evenly between them.
Spouse and children survive the deceasedThe deceased spouse will inherit all the community property and  1/3 of the separate property.

The children will inherit ⅔ of the separate property.

Do I Need An Attorney to Probate Estate Without a Will?

You do not need an attorney to probate an estate without a will in California. If you need help preparing the probate legal forms, contact A People’s Choice for help. We not only provide legal document preparation services to residents of Ventura and Simi Valley, but throughout California and file probate in all counties.

Most clients that need to file a California probate without a will find using our services a very inexpensive and stress free way to get through the complex probate process. Our clients typically have few issues that need attorney expertise when probating their loved one’s estate. The probate process can take between 6 to 9 months to complete and there are many forms involved. A People’s Choice can prepare all the forms and can file them on your behalf to make sure  all deadlines are met during the process. Give us a call (1-800-747-2780) to learn more about how we can help you.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


We would love to know your thoughts on this article. Connect with us over on Google+ or Twitter