• Tim Riswold

No estate plan? Your in-laws might get your property

Updated: Apr 22

In California, your property could end up in your in-law’s hands! Although it is a remote possibility, California law provides that under certain circumstances, your in-laws will receive all of your property when you pass away (1). You might be asking how this could be. The answer lies in California’s law on “intestate succession.”


If you pass away without an estate plan, California provides a default method for distributing your property when you die. The method is called intestate succession. The rules of intestate succession apply automatically if you do not have a trust or will. Importantly, intestate succession only determines who gets your property. Your property will still likely need to go through probate.


Under intestate succession rules, there are a range of possibilities as to who can receive your property at death. It operates by process of elimination, each scenario depending heavily on who outlives you. The law of intestate succession favors your closest family members. For example, if you have a spouse but no living immediate family members then your property all goes to your spouse (2). Or if have one child and no spouse, your child receives everything under intestate succession (3). If you have no spouse or children, then your parents will receive your property if they are still living (4). If none of those relations are alive, more remote relations are in line to receive your property. If you pass away without any close relatives, it is possible that long lost cousins, and in rare cases, your in-laws, could receive your estate.


It should be noted that the examples above are designed only to show how intestate succession works. Matters become more complicated when property is characterized as community or separate property.


Intestate succession is not perfect. If intestate succession sounds unsettling to you, it can be easily avoided. You can decide who gets your property and how much of it by creating a will or a trust. It should go without saying that estate planning will not solve all the world’s problems, but you can at least prevent your in-laws from getting your property.


The information in this blog is intended only as general information, and under no circumstances constitutes legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The information should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice concerning your particular situation.


For advice specific to your situation, contact us for an appointment.


(1) California Probate Code § 6402 (g)

(2) California Probate Code § 6401 (c)(1)

(3) California Probate Code § 6402 (a)

(4) California Probate Code § 6402 (b)



About the Koons & Riswold Auburn Law Office

Koons & Riswold maintains its main office in Auburn, California to provide clients with legal services to clients in Auburn, as well as the greater Placer County region. Our Auburn lawyers provide legal services well suited to the Auburn area, which include: Living Trust and Estate Planning services, Probate, Real Estate legal issues, and business law matters. All our lawyers have deep roots in the Auburn area, having strong familial, community, and professional ties to the region. Koons & Riswold has recently opened a satellite office in Rocklin, California for the purpose of providing Living Trust and Estate Planning services there.