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What happens if you die without a will in California?

According to The Conversation, an astounding 68% of the U.S. population lack a will. Many people put it off, believing they have plenty of time to do so since they are young. However, according to a group convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the number of deaths among younger people (between 25 and 65) are on the rise.

As a result, there are more individuals passing before writing the wills they planned to once they aged more. What exactly happens to these people’s estate though?

The spouse

Any surviving spouses are first in line in intestate succession in California. Marriage partners retain any community property (as long as they are able to establish ownership). If the deceased has no living children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, siblings or nephews and nieces with deceased parents who were blood siblings to the said decedent, then the spouse receives all separate property. If the person who passed away left behind a singular child, an issue of a dead child, parents or a descendant of parents, then the spouse receives half of the separate property. If the decedent leaves more than one child (two children, issue of more than one dead child or an issue of a dead child and a child), the spouse only receives a third. This may apply even if the deceased and spouse are in the middle of a separation and do not live together at the time of the former’s death.

The family

When there is no surviving spouse, the estate goes to the decedent’s children. If there are none, the inheritance goes to parents, then siblings, then other family members.

If there are no remaining heirs, the state of California receives the estate. Creating wills helps ensure people’s property goes to who they wish them to.