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How will my estate be distributed if I don't have a will?

If you pass away without a will in place, you are leaving the distribution of your estate and assets in the hands of the court. If this happens, the courts will follow specific rules for who receives your assets and which assets they will receive. 

However, this is a complex situation. It's not necessarily as easy as giving all your assets to your spouse or your kids. The distribution of your assets will hinge on factors including whether you were married and what type of assets you own. Below is a very broad explanation of this process.

If you are married

Your spouse will receive community property, or property acquired during the marriage, as well as quasi-community property.

Separate property will be distributed among your spouse, children, parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews. The percentage depends on which of these heirs exist.

If you are not married

Any portion of your estate that is not passing to a spouse will be distributed in this order:

  • To your children
  • To your parents
  • To your siblings
  • To your grandparents
  • Aunts or uncles
  • Children of a predeceased spouse
  • Next of kin
  • Family members of a predeceased spouse

The distribution of your assets will not necessarily be equal, no matter which of your heirs receives them. Remote relatives, for instance, can receive a smaller portion than someone who is the same relation but had a closer relationship with you.

Exceptions and clarifications

This is a very general guide to intestate succession, or the order of asset distribution for someone who dies without a will. Your estate could be distributed differently, depending on the details of your family and assets.

Taking control of the process

Rather than let the courts make these decisions for you and your family, you can take control of the distribution of your own assets by creating a will. A will allows you to name your heirs, allocate your property in a manner you deem fit and fair, and establish your own rules. 

Not only can creating a will give you some peace of mind in knowing your wishes are protected, it can also give your loved ones peace of mind in knowing that such important decisions will not be left in the hands of strangers.

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Law Office of Jeffrey B. Pape, P.C.
642 Pollasky Avenue
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Clovis, CA 93612

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