What Happens When You Pass Without an Estate Plan or Will?Of course, our own death is something none of us ever want to think about, but like many things in life, it is necessary. What happens to everything you own when you pass? If you do not have a comprehensive estate plan in place—assembled by a qualified Sonoma probate attorney—then the state of California will make decisions regarding where your assets will go.
Will the State Get My Property?If you were to die without a Will or other type of estate plan and you had no family at all, your property would “escheat” into the state’s coffers. This rarely happens, because the laws of the state are meant to ensure your property goes to your relatives. That being said, the state might not pass your assets to those relatives or friends you would want them to go to. Only assets that would have passed through your Will are affected by these intestate succession laws—assets you own alone, in your name only.
Are Some Assets Exempt from California’s Intestate Laws?Examples of assets that are not affected by intestate succession laws include any property transferred to a Living Trust, life insurance proceeds, payable-on-death bank accounts, properties owned with another person in joint tenancy or as community property, securities held in a transfer-on-death account, IRAs, 401(k)s, and vehicles held by transfer-on-death registration.
How Do California’s Intestate Laws Work?Under California’s intestate laws, if you die without an estate plan and have children but no spouse, your children inherit everything. If you have a spouse but no children, parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews, your spouse inherits everything. If you have parents, but no children, spouse, or siblings, your parents inherit everything. The list is much more extensive, addressing virtually every eventuality.
Intestate Laws Consider Community Property and Separate PropertyMore specifically, if you are married and die without a will, what your spouse will get will depend on how the two of you owned the property—separately or as community property, acquired while you were married. (Gifts and inheritances given to one spouse are considered separate property, even if they were acquired during the marriage). If you and your spouse were legally separated at the time of your death, your spouse will not be entitled to your property, which would then follow California intestate laws provided no properly executed will devises otherwise.
Considerations for a California Estate PlanYour estate plan will take many variables into consideration, including your vehicles, bank accounts, property, investments, personal possessions, and other things of value. Your estate plan prepared by Attorney Eric Gullotta will go above and beyond, providing you all the information you need to prepare for your own future, as well as the future of your family. Attorney Eric Gullotta is Santa Rosa’s trusted probate attorney, working alongside Sonoma County families to establish an estate plan that provides the most benefit to family members. Contact Gullotta Law Group and Eric Gullotta at (707)-938-7234—we are standing by to answer all your questions regarding your estate plan.
How Will Eric Gullotta Prepare Your Estate Plan?Here are a few goals that Eric aims to oversee during this process. This list is not comprehensive, as your estate plan will be custom-tailored to fit your exact specific needs:
- Determine who will manage your assets when you no longer can do so.
- Allocate assets to specific parties, distributed fairly and according to your desires.
- Prepare for the change in guardian to your children (minors).
- Assign health-care decision-making rights to a qualified party should you become incapacitated.
- Go through the process of selecting a beneficial life insurance policy.
- Assign assets to third parties who would not normally receive them should you pass.