Question from Aras, Can a Will Exclude a Spouse from Inheritance in California?
Answer from AI:
In California, as in many other jurisdictions, a person has the right to distribute their property as they see fit upon their death through a will or other estate planning documents. However, there are certain protections in place for surviving spouses that may limit the ability of one spouse to completely disinherit the other.
Community Property Considerations
California is a community property state, which means that generally, any assets acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned by both spouses. Upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse is typically entitled to at least half of the community property, regardless of what the deceased spouse’s will says.
Separate Property and the Right to Inherit
Separate property, which is property owned by one spouse before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance, can usually be distributed according to the owner’s wishes in their will. However, even with separate property, a spouse may have certain rights.
Spousal Right of Election
California law provides for a spousal right of election, which allows a surviving spouse to claim a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, even if the will attempts to leave them nothing. This is designed to prevent a spouse from being left destitute.
Effect of Divorce on Wills
If a couple’s divorce case was dismissed and they remain legally married, even if they live separately, they are still considered married for the purposes of inheritance. A will written after a divorce case is dismissed that attempts to disinherit a spouse may not be entirely effective due to the reasons mentioned above.
Updating Estate Planning Documents
It is important for individuals to update their estate planning documents, including wills, after any major life event, such as the dismissal of a divorce case, to ensure that their current wishes are accurately reflected.
Consulting a Legal Professional
Since estate laws can be complex and vary by state, it is advisable to consult with a legal professional who specializes in estate planning to understand your rights and to ensure that estate planning documents are properly drafted and executed. They can provide personalized advice based on the specifics of your situation.
- For more information on California’s inheritance laws, you can visit the California Courts official website.
- For general guidelines on estate planning, the State Bar of California offers a helpful guide on wills.
Remember, while general information can be helpful, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a licensed attorney.