Proving Heirship in California Probate

By Erika Johansen

When a person dies, his heirs may be entitled to a share of his assets. However, potential heirs must first convince the probate court of their relationship with the deceased. Those with specific questions about proving heirship in California should seek legal advice.

When Heirship Applies

Heirship only comes into play when there's no legal document, such as a will or trust, that describes what is to happen to some or all of the deceased's property. In such cases, California law gives a surviving spouse rights to a portion of the property. After the spouse gets his share, the deceased's heirs will have inheritance rights over the remainder. Heirs are typically descendants of the deceased, such as children or grandchildren, but in the absence of descendants, the deceased's siblings and even elders may qualify as heirs.

Proving Heirship

To establish heir status, if necessary, a potential heir may file a petition in the Superior Court of the county where the decedent's property, in whole or in part, is located. Under California Family Code (CFC) Section 248, this petition must include the heir's basic information, a description of the property being claimed by the heir and, if known, the names and information of other potential heirs. It may also be helpful to include information evidencing the heir's relationship to the deceased, such as a birth certificate or other proof of lineage.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Contesting Heirship

Once the potential heir has submitted the petition, the court must determine its validity. Under CFC 249, any interested party with a possible claim to the property at issue has the right to dispute the petition. CFC 248.5 stipulates that the court must set a hearing; at this hearing, any interested party with a claim to the property can contest the petitioner's status as an heir or his rights to the property. Typically, it's the potential heir's responsibility to give possible interested parties adequate notice (via mail or publication in newspapers, for instance) at least 15 days before the hearing itself. The potential heir must present proof of adequate notice to the court unless the court chooses to release her from the notice requirement.

Determination of Heirship

If the court examines the petition and finds it valid, it will issue a decree confirming heirship. This decree basically serves as legal proof that the party who submitted the petition is an heir. The heir may then use the decree to establish his inheritance rights. If there are multiple heirs of equal status (for instance, multiple children of the deceased), they will receive equal shares of the decedent's property.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Is the Heir of a Deed?


Related articles

How to Contest a Fraudulent Last Will

The probate process is designed to ensure that only valid, accurate wills are enforced by court orders and as such, probate courts allow challenges to a will’s validity. State laws vary when it comes to the actual process for contesting a will -- as well as what constitutes fraud concerning a will.

How to Get Heirship Over a Decedent's Estate

Not everyone makes a will directing the passing of their property after their death. If one doesn’t exist and the deceased owned real property, an Affidavit of Heirship is worth a look. This legal device can establish the deceased's rightful heirs and save a great deal of time and complexity in the probate process. In some cases, it will help you avoid probate altogether. Obtaining heirship over an estate is usually a simple process.

Does a Quitclaim Deed Pass to the Heirs?

When a person dies, a significant portion of his property passes through the probate process to be divided and distributed among the decedent’s heirs. Traditionally, an heir was a surviving spouse or relative who received property under the state’s intestacy provision. Intestacy only takes effect when there is no valid will. However, the modern definition of an heir includes anyone who receives property from an estate, whether through intestacy or a will bequest. The ownership rights of the heirs, including property that was acquired by the decedent through a quitclaim deed, depends on the circumstances of the transfer.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to Petition the Court for Determination of Heirship

Probate, a court-supervised proceeding, normally is required when a person dies. Probate facilitates the transfer of ...

Legal Rights for a Widow With No Will in NC

Having a will in place helps clarify how a deceased person wanted his property distributed to his loved ones. If no ...

What Does an Affidavit of Heirship Mean?

A surprising number of people don't have wills. When a person dies without a will -- which is called intestate -- no ...

Revoking Rights as an Heir

An heir is someone whose relationship to the deceased gives him a legal right to the deceased's property upon her ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED