What Happens If I Pass Away Without A Will?

Yee Law Group Inc. > What Happens If I Pass Away Without A Will?

When a person passes away without a will or other estate planning tools in place, it can lead to a complex legal situation, called intestate succession. Intestate succession refers to the legal process of distributing the assets and property of a deceased person who did not leave a valid will. The outcome of this process varies depending on the jurisdiction of the court where the decedent lived and the specific circumstances of their estate.

State Laws

Without a will, the distribution of assets and property is typically governed by the laws of the state or country in which the person resided. These laws establish a hierarchy of beneficiaries, starting with the surviving spouse, children, parents, and other close relatives. The assets are usually divided among these beneficiaries based on predetermined formulas or percentages set by law.

The absence of a will can lead to disputes among family members. Siblings, parents, and other relatives may have differing opinions on how the estate should be divided. This often strains relationships and leads to legal battles. Resolving these disputes can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining for all parties involved.


In cases where there are no immediate or known relatives, the state may claim the assets through a process called escheatment. This means that the government becomes the rightful owner of the property and assets left behind by the deceased. In California, this property falls under the purview of the Controller of the State.

Escheatment is only considered as a last resort and is typically avoided if there are any living relatives, no matter how distant they may be.

Other Issues

Not having a will also means that the deceased person’s wishes regarding guardianship of minor children may not be known or considered. Without clear instructions, the court may have to intervene and decide who will take care of the children. This can cause further distress and uncertainty during an already difficult time.

The absence of a will can also lead to unnecessary taxes, expenses, and delays in the distribution of assets. It may also result in assets being allocated in ways that the deceased person did not intend, as their wishes were not explicitly stated.

Avoiding Complications

In order to avoid these types of issues, especially for family members who will likely already be dealing with the emotional impact of your passing, as well as the potential of the financial impact, it is highly recommended you create a will. A will allows you to clearly outline your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, appoint guardians for minor children, and even make charitable donations. It provides peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes.

Contact Our Estate Planning Law Firm

While drafting a will and creating other estate planning documents may seem like an overwhelming task, a Sacramento estate planning lawyer can ensure that your will is legally valid and that all of your preferences are met. Call Yee Law Group to schedule a confidential consultation and find out what legal options you may have to ensure peace of mind for you and your family.

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