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What happens when there's no will?

It happens every day: someone in California dies without a will. Sometimes the person meant to sit down with an attorney to create a will and in many other situations, they believed they were too young or healthy to think about wills or trusts. No matter what the reason, the absence of a will means that their estate will be required to go through probate.

The probate court will determine what is to be done with the estate's assets. Some assets might not need to go through that process, however. If the person who passed away had a life insurance policy, for instance, the individual listed on the policy as beneficiary would receive the asset.

A recent letter to a California newspaper came from the husband of a woman who died without a will. He mentioned that he and his wife (they were separated at the time of her death) jointly owned a house.

The attorney who replied to the letter pointed out that it's important to get a title to the property to determine which form of ownership the husband and wife had. Was it held jointly or in common? Was the house considered community property?

In some situations, a person's interest in a property can be passed on without going through probate.

The attorney who wrote the response noted that he's not a probate lawyer and he "strongly" advised the man who wrote the letter to contact one and get their advice.

Probate can be a difficult, time-consuming process. It becomes even more complex with a will contest or dispute over an estate's assets or disagreements over other aspects of a will or trust.

Contact an attorney experienced in probate and trust litigation at Mazzarella & Mazzarella.

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