Probate Without a Will Lawyer in CA

If a loved one in California has passed away and you haven’t been able to locate a valid will, you are going to need to go through the state’s process for probate without a will. There is no need to panic, but you do need to make sure that you follow the rules so that you don’t end up respondible for unpaid bills or mistakes.

Probate without a will is equally as difficult than it would be with a will, but there are some differences. If you are the person responsible for handling probate, I will guide you through the process or, if someone else is in charge, I can make sure that they are doing what they’re supposed to and not cheating you out of any assets that should be yours.

Who Inherits When There is No Will?

If a person passes away without making a will, or if a judge finds that the will is not legal, there are specific laws in California that explain who will get the property of the person who died. These laws are called “intestate succession” laws.

If the person who died has a living husband or wife, this person usually gets most or all of the property. This is especially true if they were married for many years and had a lot of shared property. If there is no living husband or wife, the children or parents of the person who died might get the property. If there are no living children or parents, other relatives might get parts of the property. To understand this, you need to know what an estate is.

Some Property is Not Part of the Estate and Does Not Go Through Probate

Someone’s “estate” is the property the deceased person left behind that is not set up to pass automatically to others in some way. For instance, most retirement accounts have beneficiary clauses that automatically transfer ownership to the person named in the document. The money in the retirement account will go to whoever is listed on file with the company handling the account and that money will not become part of the estate.

If the deceased person owned property jointly with someone else, the property might also go directly to the co-owner. That would depend on whether the property was held with a right of survivorship.

The specific details of who inherits and how much they receive will depend on the situation, so it is very helpful to consult an experienced probate lawyer to learn how the rules apply in your particular case.

Who’s in Charge and What Do They Need to Do?

When someone dies without a will, California law dictates that family members and others can serve as the administrator of the estate. These are ranked in order of preference. If the person asked to be administrator is unable to handle the job or doesn’t want to take it on, the court may turn to the next person on the priority list. The list includes:

  • Spouses and domestic partners
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Other descendants
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Nieces, nephews

The list continues through many more categories of relatives, and includes public administrators, creditors, or “any other person.”

The administrator of the estate will need to take the right steps to notify creditors and heirs, take inventory of the deceased person’s property, and follow the rules to pay bills and distribute any remaining property to the right people in the right amounts. The administrator will also need to file forms with the court, pay taxes, and meet other official requirements. It can be a confusing job, and that is why so many people work with a probate attorney who is used to assisting with the duties.

Get the Help You Need During Probate

Dealing with probate court in California is not a job anyone looks forward to, particularly when they are grieving the loss of a loved one and dealing with a million other details. I get that, and that’s why I work hard to make the process as easy as possible.

If you believe you may need to administer the estate of a family member or if you are worried about the way that someone else is handling a probate, I’d be happy to talk to you about the situation. Just reach out to me by clicking here.