California follows community property law. Each spouse owns half of the assets a couple acquired during a marriage. If you die without a will, your surviving spouse may take ownership of half of your shared assets under the California Probate Code.
Separate property consists of assets that you owned before your marriage. The Judicial Council of California website notes that separate property includes gifts and inheritances that you received while married. When you die, your separate assets may divide between your surviving spouse and your heirs.
Who may take ownership of my separate assets in addition to my spouse?
Without a will, your surviving spouse may inherit all your separate property if you do not have children or parents, as reported by SmartAsset.com. With a surviving spouse and parents, the court may distribute half your separate property to your spouse and the other half to your parents.
If you and your spouse have children together, your surviving spouse may inherit one-third of your separate property. Your surviving children may inherit the other two-thirds, which the court may divide equally between them.
Who may receive my property if I die without a spouse or child?
Dying without a spouse or children may result in your surviving parents or other relatives inheriting your assets. Under California’s intestate succession laws, individuals inheriting assets must survive the decedent by at least 120 hours.
To avoid transferring your assets under California’s intestate succession laws, you may create a will. You may list your assets and name who you wish to receive them, regardless of their relationship to you. If you die without a will, the probate court may otherwise search for your closest living relative, such as a grandchild or sibling, even if they reside out of state.