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Probate in California when there’s no Will

Probate law is designed to properly distribute the assets of an estate (the property, other assets, and liabilities of the decedent). Probate court steps in after a death to determine if there is a will or last testament. Absent a will, the court decides the distribution of the decedent’s estate. For these cases, the court usually names the spouse as prime nominee to receive the deceased’s estate.

Conflicts often develop between family members and with other possible heirs over claims for distribution of property. The probate process settles these disputes. We at T.S. Wrobel Law Group represent and pursue the rights and interests of deserving potential beneficiaries.

Work with a Successful Probate Attorney

When someone dies without a will, his or her assets are undirected and probate is required to settle distribution. In the absence of a will, state law outlines the order of distribution to relatives. California recently added a process for intestate succession for registered domestic partners. If the deceased has no relatives recognized by state law, then any assets transfer to the state.

Per California law, if you are:

  • Single/unmarried with children and leave no will at death, then the entire estate goes to your children.
  • Single/unmarried without children and leave no will at death, then the estate divides between your parents or goes entirely to the surviving parent. If your parents have both passed away, then your estate divides among your siblings (or any children of deceased siblings). If you don’t have children, then to your nieces and nephews, etc., then to further removed individuals in your family line.
  • Married with children and die without a will, your half of the community property passes to your spouse when you die. Your spouse then will own all (100 percent) of the community property interest.
  • Married and have separate assets, those assets go to your spouse and children.
    • With one child, the separate assets go in equal share to your spouse and child.
    • With multiple children, your spouse receives one-third of the separate assets, then the remaining two-thirds passes evenly to your children (or the children of deceased children).
  • Married with no children when you pass on without leaving a will, your half interest in community property goes to your spouse.
  • Married and own separate assets, only half of those separately owned assets goes to your spouse. The second half generally goes to your living heirs, first to your parents, then to your siblings.
  • A domestic partner and pass on without leaving a will, trust or other estate plan, the surviving registered domestic partner inherits a portion of your estate. Both parties must be registered as domestic partners at the California Secretary of State. What portion your surviving domestic partner receives depends on any claim from your surviving relatives or children, if any, as recognized by the state.

Contact a Lawyer Before Entering Probate without a Will

For an initial consultation, contact T.S. Wrobel Law Group to speak with Thomas Wrobel for your probate needs. Call (415) 928-4161now for an initial consultation, or reach us by email at We look forward to assisting you.