Who will receive my property if I have no will or planning?

If you are married:

If all of your children are also the children of your current spouse, then your spouse will inherit all of your community property. Your children will inherit a two-thirds interest in every item of your separate property. The remaining one-third of each item of separate property will go to your spouse, but if the item is real estate, it returns to your children upon the death of your spouse.

If you have children from a previous marriage, your children will inherit all of your half of the community property. Your spouse will keep her half of the community property. Your separate property will be distributed the same way as in the previous paragraph.

If you have no children, your spouse will inherit all of your community property. Separate property that is not real estate will also go to your spouse. Separate real estate will go half to your spouse, one fourth to your mother, and one fourth to your father. If either parent is deceased, that parent’s share will be inherited by your siblings if they survive you. If none of your parents or siblings (or their descendants) survive you, your spouse will inherit all of your separate real estate.

To determine whether an asset is community property or separate property, see my FAQ on community and separate property.

2. If you are not married (this includes being widowed or divorced):

Your children will inherit all of your property equally. If any child has died before you, his share will go to his children. If he has no children, it will go to your surviving children. If a child of a deceased child is also deceased but has left a child of his own (your great-grandchild), that great-grandchild will get its parent’s share of your estate, and so on.

If you have no children, your father will inherit half of your property, and your mother will inherit the other half. If either parent is deceased, your siblings will inherit that parent’s share. If a sibling is deceased but has left a child (your niece or nephew), that child will inherit its parent’s share, and so on. If a sibling is deceased and has left no children, the surviving siblings will take that sibling’s share. If neither of your parents nor any of their descendants survive you, your grandparents will inherit your estate equally. If either grandparent has died before you, their descendants (your aunts, uncles, and cousins) will inherit your estate.