By Betty Chapman

I have always been impressed with the generosity of the parishioners of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. The annual pledges in combination with special gifts and cash gifts from the weekly offering make it possible for St. Clement’s to be the successful church that it is today. Without these generous pledges and gifts, St. Clement’s would not exist and we would not have the church family that we all treasure.

We will all eventually leave this world to enter God’s heavenly kingdom. When we pass away, it is important to show our love of God by continuing our support, as we do during our life times, for St. Clement’s by providing for St. Clement’s in our estate plans. This cannot happen if you do not have a will!

In addition to the opportunity to remember St. Clement’s and our church family, a will is essential for you to provide for your family and put you in control of how your estate is managed and distributed. In the absence of a will, someone else in the Judicial System of the State of California, who does not know you or your family, will determine how your estate is distributed.

The following information is from the Vangard Digital Advisor. I have not altered it except to define words that are not often used in general conversation. I put definitions in parentheses. Examples: intestate (having died without a will); Probate (A court with jurisdiction over determination of the validity of wills and administration of estates and sometimes matters involving minors or adults judged incompetent). Note that in the legal codes described below for someone dying without a will, no provisions are made for your church or other charities. 

Information from Vangard Digital Advisor:

Dying without a will in California means the state gets to determine who gets what after the person passes away. Even if the decedent (person who died) is not a California resident but owns real estate there, the California Probate Code intestacy succession laws dictate who inherits the belongings.

Having a last will and testament can make sure things are divided according to the deceased’s wishes. But if there isn’t a will, here are some key intestacy (dying without a will) succession provisions you need to know about the probate code in California.

Survived by Spouse, Descendants, Parents, Siblings (brothers and sisters)

If the deceased person is survived by a spouse, descendants, siblings, or parents, California intestacy  (dying without a Will) laws dictate the following:

Survived by a Spouse and Children:

The surviving spouse inherits one-half of the deceased’s community property and one-half or one-third of the separate property, depending on whether the deceased spouse left one child or two or more children. The children inherit the remaining one-half or two-thirds of the deceased person’s separate property, and it is distributed per stirpes (descendants).

Survived by a Spouse and no Descendants, Parents, or Siblings:

The surviving spouse inherits the deceased spouse’s entire estate, including community, quasi-community, and separate property.

Survived by a Spouse and a Parent or Parents and no Descendants: 

The surviving spouse inherits all of the deceased spouse’s community property and one-half of the deceased spouse’s separate property. The surviving parent or parents inherit one-half of the deceased spouse’s separate property.

Survived by a Spouse and Sibling or Siblings and no Parents or Descendants: 

The surviving spouse inherits all of the deceased spouse’s community property and one-half of the deceased spouse’s separate property. The sibling or siblings inherit one-half of the deceased spouse’s separate property.

Not Survived by Spouse, Descendants, Parents, Siblings 

If the deceased person dies without leaving a will and isn’t survived by a spouse, descendants, parents, or siblings, the property passes to any nieces and nephews. Otherwise, it passes to grandparents, aunts or uncles, great aunts or uncles, cousins, or the children, or parents and siblings of a predeceased spouse. In the unlikely circumstance that any of the aforementioned individuals do not survive the deceased person, the entire probate estate will escheat to (become the property of) the State of California.

What You Inherit From a California Intestate Estate 

So exactly what will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a last will and testament, and the relative was a California resident or real estate owner? Even if you fall under the descriptions listed above, you still may not inherit anything. Some estates are insolvent, meaning your relative’s debts owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate. Your relative may also have left all non-probate property that isn’t subject to intestate law. If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in California, consult a California probate attorney.