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California Probate, Will & Trust Lawyer > Blog > Probate > Debunking Common Myths About Dying Without a Will

Debunking Common Myths About Dying Without a Will

MythsVFacts

Drawing up a Will is the only way to ensure that a person’s assets pass in line with their wishes after death. Dying without a Will, also called dying intestate, can leave surviving loved ones in a state of confusion and uncertainty. Unfortunately, many people are not familiar with the rules that govern intestate deaths. Many myths and misconceptions abound about what happens when a person dies without a Will. This article debunks some of the most prevalent myths about dying without a Will.

Myth #1: The State Will Inherit Everything

One of the most common misconceptions is that when someone dies without a Will, everything automatically goes to the government. This is not true. After someone dies without a Will, the state’s intestate succession laws come into play. These laws dictate how the decedent’s estate will be distributed. Generally, intestate succession laws prioritize spouses, children, parents, and other close relatives. The only time a decedent’s estate may go to the government is if there are no eligible heirs or eligible heirs cannot be located. When a decedent’s estate goes to the government, it is called “escheatment.”

Myth #2: Everything Passes to the Husband/Wife

Another prevalent myth about dying without a Will is that everything will automatically go to the surviving spouse. This is not true. In California, the surviving spouse inherits all the community property in the event their spouse dies without a Will. Generally, community property is any property that either spouse acquired during the marriage. Surviving spouses’ entitlement to separate property, which is property acquired before a marriage, is determined by which other living heirs the decedent has and gets divided accordingly. For example, if the decedent left behind children, they are entitled to a portion of the decedent’s separate property. When a decedent has surviving children, but no surviving spouse, all the property is equally divided among the children.

Myth #3: Surviving Family Members Will Decide How To Split the Estate

Some people believe that after someone dies without a Will, surviving loved ones will decide how to split the state. This is false. Surviving family members do not have the authority to decide how to split a decedent’s estate among themselves. As already mentioned, how a decedent’s estate is split is determined by the state’s intestate succession laws. If there is no Will, the court follows the state’s intestate succession laws to distribute estate assets.

In summary, contrary to common belief, the state does not automatically inherit everything when someone dies without a Will; instead, estate distribution is determined by the state’s intestate succession laws, which may allocate inheritance to surviving spouses and other close relatives, such as children and parents, and in the absence of a Will, surviving loved ones do not have the power to decide how to split the estate. Hopefully, this article provides some clarity on what happens after a person dies without a Will.

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If you recently lost a loved one and need legal help, contact the dedicated California probate attorney, Robert L. Cohen – The Probate Guy – today to schedule a telephonic consultation.

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