When someone dies without a will.

Intestate Succession

When someone dies intestate, a California probate court will determine the distribution of their assets in accordance with a strict legal formula to surviving spouses and close blood relatives. This is called intestate succession.


Also known as devisees or the persons who have been named beneficiaries in a will.


The California court process which decides where, how, and to whom a deceased person’s property will be disbursed.

Probate Administration

A legal proceeding where a will is submitted to a California probate court. Once the will is submitted, an estate administrator or executor will oversee the closure of the estate. This involves inventorying and appraising the totality of the estate’s probate assets, resolving its unpaid debts, and distributing inheritances and gifts to beneficiaries.

Probate Litigation

Legal challenges filed against an estate or associated will or trust. Probate litigation may take the form of a challenge to a will’s validity, a creditor claim, or a beneficiary’s petition to dislodge a trustee.

Real Property

All buildings and land, vacant or occupied, owned by an individual or decedent.


The term used for the person who has written a will or, in some instances, founded a trust. Settlor, grantor, and founder are also used to refer to persons who have established a trust.


An estate planning arrangement in which an individual’s assets are transferred to the ownership of a “container” vessel, or trust. Trusts are often used to disburse assets to beneficiaries without the need for probate proceedings.


A legal document that details an individual’s wishes about what they would like to happen to their assets after death. A will may also include important health care provisions and cite a guardian for the decedent’s minor children or pets.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.