Myth, Misconception, or Truth? If I Pass Away Without a Will, the State Will Decide Who Gets What

Truth: The State Decides

It’s a common question and a critical one: what happens to your assets if you pass away without a will? The straightforward answer is that the state decides. Specifically, in California, the state has a predetermined plan for distributing your assets through the California Probate Code’s intestacy provisions.

Understanding Intestacy

When someone dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” Each state has intestacy laws that outline how the decedent’s property should be divided. In California, these laws dictate the hierarchy of who inherits, typically starting with the spouse and children, then moving on to other family members if necessary.

Why You Need an Estate Plan

While the state’s plan ensures that your assets go to your relatives, it might not align with your personal wishes. This is why we are strong advocates for having an estate plan. An estate plan allows you to specify exactly who should receive your assets, appoint guardians for minor children, and express your wishes regarding healthcare and financial decisions if you become incapacitated.

The Risks of Not Having a Will

  1. Default Distribution: The state’s plan may not reflect your wishes. For instance, if you want to leave a specific item to a friend or donate part of your estate to a charity, intestacy laws won’t accommodate these desires.
  2. Potential Family Conflicts: When there is no will, the potential for disputes among surviving family members can increase, leading to prolonged and often costly legal battles.
  3. Higher Costs and Delays: Probate without a will can be more complicated and time-consuming, resulting in higher legal fees and extended delays before your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

Take Control of Your Legacy

Creating an estate plan, including a will, is a proactive step towards ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. It also provides peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones are taken care of in the way you intend.

Learn More

For more information on estate planning and how to protect your legacy, check back here or visit Von Rock Law. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and ensure that your wishes are honored.

Remember, having a plan in place is not just about distributing your assets; it’s about leaving a lasting legacy that reflects your values and provides for your loved ones in the way you envision. Don’t leave it up to the state—take control of your future today.
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