What Will Happen to Property I Don’t Include in My Will in California?
A common concern people have when creating their California wills – and indeed a reason why some unnecessarily delay in creating or updating their will – is a feeling that they do not know what property will be in their estate when they pass on. Short of those people who, for one reason or another, are aware of a specific time that they will pass on, this is certainly going to be an issue for the vast majority of people.
But California probate law does provide avenues for people to account for this uncertainty regarding property in their wills while honoring their wishes. By working with your attorney to incorporate a residuary clause into your will, you can fully distribute your estate via your will. Without a residuary clause, a probate court may need to utilize aspects of California intestate succession law to fully distribute your estate.
Including a Residuary Clause
A residuary clause is a clause in your will which will cover the “residue” in your estate, meaning any property that is left after all debts are paid and all specific and general gifts (in short, “specific” gifts refer to specific pieces of property such as your 1965 Cadillac, while “general” gifts refer to fungible property such as cash, i.e. “$25,000”).
The beneficiary of the residuary clause might also receive other named property in your will such as property that was left to a now-deceased beneficiary which does not automatically pass through to their beneficiaries, or property that is refused by designated beneficiaries.
Whoever you name in your residuary clause will thus receive any and all property still remaining in your estate, and, as such, you are not required to name in the will what that specific property might be. You can name a single residual beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries.
Intestate Succession for Unnamed Property
Without a residuary clause, a California court will have to treat any remaining property the same way it would as if you had died without a will. Such property thus becomes subject to what is called “intestate succession” rules, which goes to your surviving family members via a list of priorities set out by California state law.
Speak to an attorney for further detail, but, in general, the priority list for intestate succession is: 1) surviving spouses and children; 2) surviving parents if there are no surviving spouses or children; 3) other family members if no there are no surviving parents, spouses, or children.
Update Your Estate Planning With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.