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Q.What is California's Intestate Succession Laws?

A.In California, if a person dies without a will or if any part of a decedent's estate is not effectively disposed of by a Will, the intestate share will be distributed in the following order and manner:

1. A surviving spouse or domestic partner is generally first in line to get any assets from an intestate estate (the estate of a person who dies without a will), including any community property, quasi-community property, and separate property that belonged to the decedent. The surviving spouse or domestic partner is entitled to the 50% of the community and quasi-community property that belonged to the decedent plus the following:

  • If there are no surviving children, parents, siblings, or children of deceased siblings of the decedent, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire intestate estate.


  • If the decedent leaves a surviving child, a grandchild, a parent, or sibling, the surviving spouse gets 50% of the intestate separate property.


  • If the decedent leaves more than one child or more than one grandchild, the surviving spouse gets 33% of the separate property in the intestate estate.


2. The assets not inherited by the surviving spouse or domestic partner then pass as follows:

  • Decedent's Children and if none, then Grandchildren and if none, then Great Grandchildren All Per Stripes (Defined Below)*, and if none then to


  • Decedent's Surviving Parent or parents per capita (equally), and if no parents are alive then to the


  • Decedent's Siblings split equally if they are all still alive and if any have passed away and left children of their own the split per stirpes (Defined Below)*, and if there are no siblings then to


  • Decedent's surviving Grandparent or Grandparents equally, and if none then to


  • Children of the decedent's grandparents per stirpes (Defined Below)*, and if none then to


  • Children of a Predeceased Spouse. (To be eligible to inherit real property, the former spouse cannot predecease the decedent by more than 15 years. For personal property, the former spouse cannot predecease the decedent by more than 5 years), and if none then to


  • Decedent's next of kin in equal degree. If a claim is made through two or more different ancestral lines, those who claim through the ancestor nearest to the decedent will be preferred over others.


3. State of California. If there are no takers under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate goes (escheats) to the state of California.

*Definition of Per Stripes: Assume the decedent had two children both who died and three grandchildren 1 grandchild from one child and 2 grandchildren from the other child. Under a per stripes distribution, the grandchildren will each receive their parents share: 1 grandchild will get 50% of the decedent's estate and the other two grandchildren will share the remaining 50%.




Copyright 1999-2018 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved. All Information on this website is subject to a Disclaimer and Use Agreement. This information is provided as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. We advise you to seek the advice of competent legal counsel to address your own specific questions, facts and circumstances.