Whether you are currently single, just married, or married for many years, you should know that your marital status affects how your estate will be distributed. In California, there are many laws related to inheritance rights and property rights that apply differently to married couples than to single people.
Spouses and Inheritance Rights
If someone do not have a will and passes away, his or her spouse will most likely inherit part or all of the estate. This is because spouses are high in the order of intestate succession, a list of who inherits if the deceased person does not have a valid will. Spouses receive the entire estate if their deceased spouse had no surviving children, parents, siblings, or nieces/nephews of deceased siblings. If there are surviving children or other relatives, the spouse inherits either one-half or one-third of the estate. Note that the spouse’s share of the estate to which we refer here consists of the deceased spouse’s separate property.
When someone is single, the order of intestate succession is different. Children and parents may inherit depending on who survives the deceased person. The same is true if a marriage has been officially dissolved through divorce or annulled.
People who want to make specific gifts of property and assets to their relatives and friends should not rely on intestate succession. Preparing a will allows you to express your wishes for disposing of your estate.
Spouses and Property Rights
Being married affects property ownership too. California is a community property state, meaning that property acquired or money earned during a marriage is treated differently than property the spouses held before marriage. If a couple gets divorced, the community property may be split 50/50. For intestate succession purposes, a spouse inherits the half of the community property previously owned by his or her deceased spouse.
The concept of community property matters little for people who are single. They own all their property themselves and can dispose of it in their will or other estate planning devices. People who are married may run into problems if they transfer community property without the other spouse’s knowledge or permission, or if they give community property to another heir in a will or trust.
Spouses and Taxes
For many couples, the tax implications of marriage are very important. Spouses receive the marital deduction, benefit from estate tax portability, and may have tax breaks on their yearly returns. Single people do not receive these benefits.
Planning 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.