Creating a will may seem like an unnecessary expense and a morbid exercise, but it is an important step for every adult to undertake. There is no way to know what could happen in the future, and if you don’t proactively create documents before you have a serious medical issue or die, you put yourself and the people you love at risk.
Especially when it comes to members of the LGBT community, it is of the utmost importance that adults think about what will happen to their property and the people who depend on them when they die.
Those who die without already having an estate plan ready are subject to California’s intestate succession laws. People may assume that, for example, their live-in romantic partner can retain the home that they have shared, but that is not necessarily the case if they don’t already have a will on record.
Intestate succession favors the family
California lawmakers have created clear guidelines for the probate courts regarding what happens to people’s property and obligations when they die. In the event that someone dies without testamentary documents, state law determines the descent of their property.
The closest family members of the deceased will have the strongest inheritance rights under intestate succession laws. Spouses and children have the strongest rights, but parents and even siblings and grandparents can inherit when there are no closer family members to receive property from an estate.
The obvious issue with this approach for members of the LGBT community is that often they find themselves dealing with estrangement from their family members and may not have a positive relationship with their parents, siblings or other immediate relatives. More concerning is how those who do not marry could potentially leave their partner at risk of losing property that they have become dependent on or even invested in acquiring or maintaining.
Creating a will is an important first step
Your will determines who will receive your property and puts you in control of your legacy when you die. You might want to consider adding other documents, like an advance directive explaining your medical preferences and powers of attorney so that there are people with the authority to manage your affairs.
Learning more about California probate laws can help you decide the best approach when planning your estate.