Can Children of Unmarried Parents Inherit in California?

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Can Children of Unmarried Parents Inherit in California?

Parents Sitting With Children Reading Story Indoors

If you are a parent who is not legally married to the other parent of your children, you may wonder if your children can inherit from you. California has various laws addressing the inheritance rights of the children of unmarried parents, adoptive parents, and stepparents. But the law does not cover every possible scenario. From a practical perspective, you may need some estate planning documents prepare to ensure that your wishes are carried out for your children.

Intestate Succession

In California, property of a deceased person who does not have a will goes to his or her heirs by intestate succession. Intestate succession is the order in which relatives inherit an estate and in which proportions. Generally speaking, spouses and children have the strongest claims to portions of an estate. If you are not married, you may be concerned that your children will not inherit from you – especially if you are not the birthing parent or are a step-parent.

The Parent-Child Relationship

Under California law, children can almost always inherit from their natural parents. Natural parents are the woman who gave birth to a child and the man who has paternity rights. The marital status of natural parents does not matter. (Probate Code § 6450.) There are a few exceptions, including:

  • Parental rights were terminated;
  • A parent did not acknowledge the child;
  • A parent abandoned the child for at least 7 years while the child was a minor, under some circumstances; or
  • Adoption, under some circumstances.

(Probate Code § 6450.) Future blogs will discuss adoption and stepchildren, which are more complicated issues than unmarried parents.

Estate Planning for Unmarried Parents

Although the intestate rules do say that children can inherit from unmarried parents in most cases, they should not keep parents from making an estate plan. The truth is, costs of administering an estate can add up in California, and you should have a plan for maximizing what your children will inherit. Further, making a will or establishing a trust will provide peace of mind that children will be provided for in case anything should happen to you. You may want to consider setting up a healthcare directive and durable power of attorney as well, to allow someone else to make important medical financial decisions for you should you be unable.

Are you thinking about your family’s future and want to plan your estate? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your estate plan with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.

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