The Definition of an Heir in California Probate

By Andrine Redsteer

In California, the term "heir" is defined in the state's probate code. Heirs are people who are entitled to inherit a deceased person's property. California, like other states, has laws that explain who may receive an inheritance when a person dies without a last will and testament. These laws are called "laws of intestate succession," and when a person dies without a will, it is referred to as dying "intestate."

California Probate

When a person dies with a will, it may be admitted to a California probate court. Probate courts oversee the distribution of a deceased person's estate according to the provisions in his will. Probate courts also oversee the distribution of a deceased person's estate if he died without a will. When there is no will, a probate court distributes a deceased person's estate to his heirs according to California's laws of intestate succession.

Surviving Spouse

In California, surviving spouses are entitled to an inheritance. California is a community property state. This means all property acquired over the course of a marriage is shared equally between spouses. California also recognizes separate property; separate property is everything a husband and wife own separately. If a married person dies without a will, his surviving spouse inherits all community property and all separate property if there are no children.

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Children

According to California's probate code, children of a deceased person are entitled to inherit a portion of their parent's separate property. If a married parent dies without a will and has only one child, that child gets one-half of his deceased parent's separate property, and his spouse gets the other half. If there is more than one child, the children receive two-thirds of their deceased parent's separate property in equal shares, and the spouse receives one-third. If a parent dies without a will and is not married at the time of death, children receive their parent's entire estate in equal shares.

Other Family Members

In California, brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents are also legal heirs. If a person dies without a will, was not married at the time of death and has no children, her estate passes to her parents in equal shares. If a person dies without a will, was not married at the time of death and has no children, surviving parents or surviving grandparents, her estate passes to her brothers and sisters in equal shares. If there are no heirs whatsoever, a deceased person's estate passes to the state of California.

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The California Law When the Deceased Has No Will
 

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Mississippi Estate Inheritance Laws

If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."

The Rules of Inheritance

The rules of inheritance are set according to state law. Each state has its own statutes that explain which relatives have priority and how much inheritance they are are entitled to receive. These statutes, known as "laws of intestate succession," differ from state to state. However, there is a priority of heirs common in many state statutes.

North Dakota Inheritance Law

According to North Dakota's Uniform Probate Code, a state resident can explain how he would like his property divided in a last will and testament. However, there are certain guidelines a will maker, known as a testator, must follow to make a valid will. If these guidelines aren't followed, a will may be declared invalid. When this occurs -- or if an individual doesn't make a will at all -- the state laws of intestate succession then govern the division of property.

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