In California, an intestate share is distributed in the following order and manner:
Surviving spouse receives one-half of the community property and quasicommunity property that belonged to the decedent. Also entitled to receive the following amount of the decedent’s separate property:
- All: if the decedent has no surviving issue, parent, sibling, or issue of a deceased sibling.
- One-half: if the decedent leaves one of the following – a surviving child, children of a child who predeceased the decedent, parents or siblings.
- One-third: if the decedent is survived by more than one child or multiple lines of issue.
If there is no surviving spouse, to the first category of heirs who survive:
- Descendants (e.g., children and grandchildren) per stirpes.
- Surviving parent or parents equally.
- Issue of parent or parents, split equally if they are all the same degree of kinship to the decedent (e.g., siblings) or split per stirpes if unequal degrees of kinship (e.g., some siblings survive and some are dead but survived by children).
- Surviving grandparent or grandparents equally.
- Issue of grandparents, per stirpes.
- Issue of predeceased spouse. However, if the former spouse predeceased the decedent by more than 5 years, no personal property will be distributed to the predeceased spouse’s issue. If the former spouse predeceased the decedent by more than 15 years, no real property will be distributed to the predeceased spouse’s issue.
- Decedent’s next of kin in equal degree. If a claim is made through two or more different lines of ancestors, those who claim through the ancestor nearest to the decedent are preferred.
If no heirs survive, escheat to the State of California.
Relatives of the half blood generally inherit the same as relatives of the whole blood unless the relationship between a child and the child’s natural parent is severed by adoption.
Relatives conceived before death but born after death inherit as though they had been born during the decedent’s lifetime.
Persons who fail to survive the decedent by 120 hours are deemed to have predeceased the decedent. In other words, they do not get a share of the decedent’s estate.
Slayer Statute: any person who intentionally and feloniously kills the decedent cannot inherit any of the decedent’s assets or otherwise benefit from the killing. The murderer is treated as though he or she predeceased the decedent. Felonious and intentional killing is established through a criminal conviction (where the standard is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) or a civil trial (where the standard is the lesser, preponderance of the evidence, or “more likely than not”).
Elder Abuse: any person who physically abuses, neglects, or commits fiduciary abuse of a decedent who was an elder or dependent adult is prevented from profiting after the decedent’s death. The abusive person is treated as having predeceased the decedent and is thus ineligible to inherit.