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How are Half-Siblings and Step Children Dealt With in California Probate

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California has a variety of intestate laws that apply if you do not have a will.

If you have any half-brothers and half-sisters well, they inherit as if they were “whole” under California law. That is, your brother with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the same right to your property as he would if you both had parents in common.  Reference California Probate Code Section 6406. If there a stepchildren involved, they are considered natural children so they are not as likely to inherit  Some people do adopt their stepchildren in which case those stepchildren would be treated like natural children for intestate succession purposes  Note that there is a circumstance when a stepchild could inherit and that would be if there were no other close relatives alive.  By that we are talking about a person who dies with no living relatives at all (no spouse, children, parents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc.). In addition, if the spouse died only a few years before the decedent, there may be some inheritance rights for the stepchildren. I have dealt with two recent probates that have dealt with these situations. In the first situation, the decedent had a will, was not married and no children.  His will left everything to non-family members.  Even though he had a will, California probate laws require that his probate petition be noticed on his half-brother and half-sister. Service on them was required as the decedent died with no surviving spouse, children or parents.

California probate would require service on his brother and his half-siblings as they are all are considered the same for purposes of intestate succession.

He did not die intestate but service still had to be made on them even though he had no recent contact with them.  Efforts would have had to been made to locate them if necessary. In the second situation, the decedent had not will, was not married, and had no children. His parents were deceased and his wife had died more than 15 years earlier.  He did have several stepchildren, one of whom was living in his house when he died. He was survived by a niece and a nephew. By California intestate law, the niece the nephew inherit all of his estate. Nothing goes to the stepchildren. The decedent could have clarified that if he had a will

Intestate issues are complex. Call David A. Arietta, a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law at (925) 472-8000.