Dying without a Will: How Courts Decide Who Gets What
- If the deceased person)did not leave behind any descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), then their surviving spouse inherits everything. If the decedent was survived by descendants, but did not leave behind a spouse, then the inheritance is split equally between the descendants.
- If the decedent did leave behind descendants as well as a spouse, and those descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse still inherits everything. For example, if a person dies and is survived by his wife and their two children, his wife inherits the entire estate.
- If the decedent did leave behind descendants as well as a spouse, and at least one of those descendants is not a descendant of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse inherits 50% and the other 50% is divided equally between the descendants who are not also descendants of the surviving spouse. For example, a person dies and is survived by her husband and three children. One of those children is also child of the surviving husband, but the other two children are the decedent’s children from a previous marriage (in other words, the surviving husband’s step-children). In this case, the surviving husband would inherit 50% of the estate, and the other two children (the step-children of the surviving husband) would split the other 50%, each winding up with 25% apiece.
A common question about executing a trust is, does a trust have to be notarized?
With a will, California law requires that a will be witnessed by two people. A California will does not need to be notarized. However, with a revocable, living trust, most trusts prepared by an attorney are notarized. Does a trust have to be notarized?
Surprisingly, although most estate planning attorneys in Orange County notarize wills, there is no legal requirement in the law that a trust be notarized.