Click for FREE Consultation!

Intestate Succession
Protection of Surviving Spouse
Estate Administration
Non-Probate Techniques
Wealth Transfer Taxation
Disability Planning
Physical Aspects of Death
Client Contact
Intestate Succession

California's intestate distribution scheme is found in Sections 6400-6402.5 of the California Probate Code. Distribution will vary depending whether intestate was married at time of death and on the type of property involved.

STEP ONE: Decedent married at time of death (skip to step two if decedent was not married) Distribution varies depending on the types of property involved:

  1. community property - surviving spouse will own all community property; because already owned half and then inherits the deceased spouse’s half
  2. quasi community - the rules are the same as community; surviving spouse inherits the deceased spouse’s half; surviving spouse will own all the quasi community
  3. separate property - surviving spouse could end up with all, half or one third depending on the family situation
    1. gets all - no descendants or first line relatives; no issue and neither parent is still alive and no descendants of parents still alive (no brothers or sisters, nieces and nephews)
    2. gets one half - if there is either one blood line of descendants OR no descendants but there are first line relatives (deceased spouse had only one child, or if no descendants, the deceased spouse left at least one parent or descendant of parent (brothers, sisters)
    3. gets one third - if there are two or more blood lines of descendants still alive (deceased spouse leaves more than one surviving child, one child and issue of deceased child, issue of several deceased child; must have at least 2 or more surviving blood lines)
    4. any separate remaining passes as if there were no surviving spouse (under step 2, below)
Cal. Prob. Code § 6401 (West 2000)

STEP TWO: Determine where balance of estate will go
The following is the priority order for determining heirs under the California intestate distribution scheme.

  1. descendants (lineal) - children, great grandchildren, etc
    (California follows per capita with representation - divide into initial shares at first generation with surviving members. Cal. Prob. Code § 240 (West 2000))
  2. parents - half to each or all to surviving parent
  3. descendants of parents - brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews
    (goes to descendants of parents per capita with representation)
  4. grandparents and their descendants - four grandparents each get a third, three each a third, two get half each, one grandparent left gets all; no equality between sides of the family
  5. if all grandparents deceased then goes to aunts and uncles by per capita with representation
  6. former step children and descendants (step children that were not treated as real child) - children of the predeceased spouse
  7. next of kin - CA uses civil law with a parentalic preference rule
  8. deceased spouses parents and their descendants
  9. escheat to the CA government - final step, if no heirs can be found at all
Cal. Prob. Code § 6402 (West 2000)