Everyone in California has an estate plan. Some people have an estate plan, either in the form of a trust or a will, that reflects the wishes of the person who made the plan. People who do not have a trust or a will also have a plan, one created under California’s intestate succession laws. The word “intestate” means “without an estate plan.”
Generally speaking, the intestate succession laws divide a decedent’s property among that person’s closest (in terms of lineage) family members. For example, if a married person with two children were to die without a trust or a will, California law determines the distribution of the decedent’s property. The decedent’s interest in any community property is distributed to the surviving spouse. The decedent’s separate property is distributed one-third to the surviving spouse, and one-third to each of the two children.
Make sure that your estate plan reflects your wishes. The only way to do so is to prepare an estate plan. There are choices available for almost every economic circumstance, from a simple will to a sophisticated trust. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you determine the best plan to meet your needs.