What California Residents Need to Know About Inheritance Law
Welcome to the fastest and easiest way to find out about Inheritance Law in California. If someone you love has recently died, and you've been named as a beneficiary in a Will or a trust, or if you are an heir of someone who died without a Will or a trust, or if you've been named as an executor of a Will or trustee of a living trust, you can use this site to find out what you'll need to do to inherit or settle an estate or trust.
Here, you'll find clear and accurate information about how to inherit property, including:
- Whether or not California has an inheritance or estate tax
- How probate works in California
- Whether California's small estate procedure will allow you to avoid probate
- How to get a federal tax identification number for an estate or trust
- What taxes need to be filed after someone has died
- How capital gains are calculated on inherited property
- How to manage property inherited by minors
- How to inherit an IRAs and other retirement accounts in California
- How to inherit life insurance
- How to inherit joint tenacy property
- How to inherit payable-on-death accounts in California
- Who Inherits if a Spouse or Parent dies without a Will in California
Here are three things to keep in mind before you get started:
1. Many estates can avoid probate altogether, either because they're small enough to fall under a state's small estates limit, because the assets were held in a living trust, or because the assets will go to named beneficiaries because they are held as joint tenancy accounts, or in retirement or life insurance.
2. You have to pay creditors and taxes before you can inherit assets. You always have to pay taxes before any other creditors can get paid. Debts that are secured by property, like mortages, are called secured debts, because if someone doesn't pay the loan, the lender can take the property. If you inherit a house, you also inherit the mortgage. Unsecured debts, like credit cards, don't work that way -- as a beneficiary you are not responsible for that debt, but the estate needs to pay all known creditors before distributing property to beneficiaries and heirs. Otherwise, a creditor can come calling to get paid back from estate assets, even after they've been distributed.
3. Most estates do not need to file an estate tax return. Unless an estate is worth more than $5 million dollars (plus an additional amount indexed to inflation each year, currently $11,580,000, it will not need to file an estate tax return.