Like what you're reading?
Get weekly money news & money moves delivered to your inbox
A guide to California probate laws.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” can write a will in California. If you’re considered mentally incompetent by California law, which can include suffering from symptoms of delusion or hallucinations, you may not be able to make a valid will.
Every will must be signed by two witnesses who are generally competent.
They can, but unless there are two disinterested witnesses, they may have to forfeit part or all their inheritance if they cannot prove that they didn’t have any undue influence on the testator.
Yes, California allows for a holographic will, but it must be dated and in the handwriting of the testator.
Yes, California is a community property state.
In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property.
In California, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the intestate estate based on the laws of intestate succession.
In California, the surviving spouse receives the community property.
This is how much of the separate property a surviving spouse would receive in a few different circumstance:
|If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:||Surviving spouse's share|
|No children, parents, siblings, or nieces/nephews||Everything|
|No children, but parents or siblings of the decedent||1/2 of the estate|
|A child or descendants of a deceased child||1/2 of the estate|
|More than one child||1/3 of the estate|
|One child and descendants of one or more deceased children||1/3 of the estate|
|Descendants of two more deceased children||1/3 of the estate|
Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along in the following order:
For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share is distributed equally to their children.
After the testator dies, anyone can petition the court to commence proceedings, but any named executor in the testator’s will must file a petition within 30 days of knowledge of the decedent’s death.
Where to file: The county court where the testator died or owned property.
An estate in California may not have to go through probate if the value of its combined real and personal property doesn’t exceed $166,250 and an heir has filed a small estates affidavit after 40 days from the testator’s death.
Easy Money by Policygenius
Sign up for Easy Money by Policygenius, a free weekly newsletter with exclusive content, personal finance advice, and bonus offers.
About the author
Elissa is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She writes about estate planning, mortgages, and occasionally health insurance. In the past she has written about film and music.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.
Was this article helpful?
We make it easy to compare and buy insurance.
Security you can trust
Yes, we have to include some legalese down here. Policygenius Inc. (DBA Policygenius Insurance Services in California) (“Policygenius”), a Delaware corporation, is a licensed independent insurance broker. Policygenius does not underwrite any insurance policy described on this website. The information provided on this site has been developed by Policygenius for general informational and educational purposes. We do our best to ensure that this information is up-to-date and accurate. Any insurance policy premium quotes or ranges displayed are non-binding. The final insurance policy premium for any policy is determined by the underwriting insurance company following application.
Copyright Policygenius © 2014-2020