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State laws govern how a person’s assets will be distributed should they pass on without a will. If a married person (or registered domestic partner) dies without a will in California, the state will automatically bequeath all community assets belonging to the deceased to the marital spouse (or domestic partner). Community assets are those that were acquired from earnings during the marriage or domestic partnership. Separate property assets – acquired prior to the marriage or partnership, including gifts, inheritances, and earnings from those interests, are henceforth distributed to the children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, parents, nephews, nieces, and remaining relatives. If a spouse dies without a will, it is entirely possible for the relatives of the deceased to make a partial or complete claim to the remaining spouse’s estate.Unmarried persons and those without a registered domestic partner will have their assets distributed to children or grandchildren. If there are no offspring, the assets will be given to brothers, sisters, parents, nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
The assets of an unmarried parent, (or who did not have registered domestic partner), will be given first to children and grandchildren. However, it is highly recommended that a parent with minor children make financial provisions in a will for a caretaker who would be able to protect their interests.
A handwritten will is one of the best ways to ensure the proper distribution of an estate after death. The entire document must be written entirely in one’s own handwriting and needs to be signed and dated. Any typing on a handwritten will renders it invalid. Handwritten wills are legally substantive, and they are the simplest, most expedient form of legal protection. They are especially convenient for those (and particularly elderly persons in an assisted living arrangement) who do no yet have a will. A typed will requires the signature of 2 witnesses who were either present during the execution and/or the acknowledgment of the signing of the will. The state of California becomes the sole beneficiary of one’s estate should the deceased pass on without a will and does not have any relatives or next-of-kin to inherit the estate.

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