Trust And Estate Administration

Q: I was adopted when I was 2 years old and I just found out my biological father died without a will. Am I entitled to any portion of his estate now?

A: No, you will not inherit anything from your biological father's estate in this case. With very few exceptions, Probate Code Section 6451(a) states that an adoption severs the relationship of parent and child between an adopted person and their biological parent.

Q: I have been living with my girlfriend for 24 years, but we’ve never gotten officially married. Will my assets automatically pass to her upon my death?

A: Not necessarily! Any assets you own as joint tenants would automatically pass to her by right of survivorship. However, be aware that California, contrary to popular belief, does NOT recognize common law marriage. Therefore, if you want assets to go to your...

Q: What happens if I get divorced and I didn’t have time to update my estate plan? Will my ex-spouse still inherit if I die?

A: Fortunately, that is not the case! California recognizes revocation by operation of law. If a testator gets divorced after the will is created, California law automatically revokes any gifts that the were made to the former spouse, unless the will explicitly states...

Q: My mom recently died without a will and had a vacant parcel of land in Modoc County worth about $10,000. Can my sister and I transfer title to ourselves without a probate?

A: Yes! Assuming your mother didn't have any other probatable assets, you and your sister can file with the court a Form DE-305 in the County where the land is located to have the property title transferred without probate.

Q: My mom recently passed away with a paid off home (worth $500,000) but owning no cash assets. Unfortunately, she also had $20,000 of credit card debt. Will I be forced to sell her house to pay off the debt?

A: Potentially. The bottom-line is this: creditors have first priority BEFORE any heirs/beneficiaries receive estate assets. Therefore, since your mom’s estate is solvent, the credit card company is entitled to be paid back in full. However, since your mom’s estate...