Not all California citizens die having written wills. If someone dies intestate, meaning without a will, the law steps in to allocate their estate. California has well-defined succession laws about who deserves to inherit what in such situations.
A spouse and relatives
According to estate law, when a decedent passes away intestate, their estate will go to their closest family. If the decedent has both a surviving spouse and children, only the spouse and children will inherit portions of the estate.
If the decedent leaves behind only a spouse, the spouse will inherit the entire estate. When both a spouse and parents survive the decedent, both might receive shares of the decedent’s property. The spouse will inherit all community property and some separate property; the parents will receive some separate property. When the decedent is survived only by a spouse and siblings, the spouse will inherit all community property and some separate property, and the siblings will receive part of the separate property.
Family but no spouse
If the decedent is survived by descendants alone, the descendants will inherit all property. Without descendants, though, the estate will go to parents. Absent a spouse, descendants or parents, siblings will inherit the estate. Finally, when the decedent has no immediate family, their estate will go to other family members.
No will, no spouse and no relatives
Some people have no spouse and no family. When they die, their estate goes to the state of California.
The state has clearly defined laws determining who will receive what if you die intestate. However, if you want your estate to follow a different inheritance path, you might benefit from contacting an attorney with experience in estate planning.