Orange County Probate Lawyer Answers, What Does It Mean to Die Intestate and What Happens if I Do?

You have worked hard throughout your life to obtain assets, and you likely want those assets to go to people you love after you pass away. Additionally, if you have minor children, you will want someone you trust to care for them if you pass away unexpectedly while they are still young. It is important to develop a will that spells out who will receive your assets and who will become the guardian of your minor children. This document will help avoid any confusion after your passing and ensure those you love are in good hands.

Estate planning can be difficult and, when not done correctly, can add additional stress during a time of loss and grief. If you are ready to create a will, or you are facing some tough decisions regarding the division of assets after a family member passed away without a will, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you sort through your legal options.

What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

When someone passes away without a will, legally known as dying “intestate,” it can be much more complicated to divide their assets. The specific laws vary by state. Usually, the assets would only be available for the deceased person’s spouse or registered domestic partner and their children. If none of these parties are living, the assets may go to other blood relatives, and as a last resort, the state could take over the assets. If you are cohabitating and you’re not married, your significant other will not be eligible to obtain your assets if you have no will. 

When someone dies intestate, it may be necessary to go to probate court to try to secure the appointment of an administrator for the estate. This administrator will manage the distribution of the assets. It is important to work with a local Orange County Probate Lawyer who can help you understand how the law applies in your situation.

In terms of determining guardianship for minor children, if there’s no will, the court will generally learn all that they can about the family situation and make the decision that they feel is best for the children. Since you know your children better than anyone else, designating a guardian beforehand could make a big difference in their lives.

Are All Assets Included in a Will?

A will does not include all assets. If a person dies intestate, as long as they had previously designated beneficiaries, those beneficiaries will receive the following assets:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Funds held in a 401(k), IRA, or another retirement plan
  • Funds in a payable-on-death (POD) bank account or stocks in a transfer-on-death (TOD) account
  • Property held in a living trust

Additionally, real estate with joint tenancy or a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed would go to the designated individual. 

Contact an Orange County Probate Attorney

Many people delay creating a will because they think they are too young to worry about it. The truth is, anyone could die unexpectedly, and if that should happen to you, it will relieve some of your family’s stress if you have a detailed will. If you are already working to distribute the assets of a loved one who passed away without a will, a California probate attorney can help you with that process, too.  

If you have questions or need assistance administering a loved one’s estate, the attorneys at Copenbarger and Copenbarger, LLP are here to offer guidance and support. To schedule an appointment at one of our offices located throughout the state of California, simply call (800) 244-8814 and mention this blog post.

If you have any further questions about asset protection planning and strategies to shield your wealth, or if you’d like to have your current asset protection plan reviewed to make sure it still meets your needs, please contact us at our California asset protection office at 800-244-8814 to set up a consultation.

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