Blended Families and Intestate Succession

Blended families are becoming very common. What a blended family means here, is you have a situation where both mom and dad are previously married, divorced, and then they get married again. In their previous marriage, they had kids. When they remarry, that child then gets a step-parent, a step-mom or a step-dad. Perhaps one of those remarried parents passes away a few years later. So, what happens to that deceased parent’s property?

Not surprisingly, a lot of different things can happen. But one very common problem is when there is no will or estate plan. This is really very typical, either from simply being overlooked, dying young, not planning, or relying on mistaken assumptions about inheritance laws. When there is a death with no will, it is called dying “intestate.” When someone dies “intestate,” there are a set of “default rules” written into the California Probate Code about what happens to property (e.g., land, house, money, jewels, etc.).

And it is not just “one” rule. There are rules for what to do when there is one child, more than one child, no child, etc. There are also rules for when the deceased person’s property is “community” or “separate” property.

“Community property” is what the married people both earn or own together as a “community,” whereas “Separate” property is distinct, different, and is often from “before marriage,” or otherwise agreed to be specifically set aside as “separate” for whatever reason.

The thing is, most people live their lives without thinking about these things, and they combine resources and bank accounts, and more often than not, most or all of the dead parent’s “stuff” looks more like community property, not separate. In such a situation where there is no will or estate plan, The surviving step-parent might try to petition the court to characterize everything as “community property” so they can inherit 100% of their property. In such a case, the dead parents’ pre-existing children could end up inheriting nothing.

That step-parent can take the inheritance and go on to re-marry someone new, or just abandon all contact with their dead spouse’s children. And when that step-parent passes away, they might will their estate to their own children or pass it to them by intestate succession, when separate property is supposed to pass, at least in part, to the deceased parent’s children. In such a situation, you will need an attorney’s help to recover your share of any “separate property” that was hidden or stolen by the step-parent. However, that will need to be proven and fought for, and we know how to do that.

Castleton Law Group
(626) 810-9300
17800 Castleton Street, Suite 630, City of Industry, California 91748