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What are the inheritance laws in California?

Many California residents create estate plans to make things easier and less expensive for surviving family members. One thing that they may be worrying about is estate taxes.

Estate taxes are the taxes that surviving family members will have to pay on an estate once the estate’s owner passes. Usually, this money will come out of the estate during probate court – but in doing so, it cuts into the family’s inheritance.

Thankfully, California doesn’t have estate or inheritance taxes. That doesn’t mean the estate planning process is any easier in California, though – it’s just different.

What taxes are family members still responsible for?

Surviving family members will still have to file the final individual state and federal income tax returns on behalf of their recently deceased loved one. This is usually due during tax season following the loved one’s death.

While there’s no California estate or inheritance tax, there are still federal estate taxes. Federal estate taxes are due no later than nine months after someone dies. Federal estate income tax returns are due by the regular April filing date established by the IRS.

How wills and estate plans help California residents

Estate plans set forth specific guidelines for the surviving family and the probate court on how to proceed. However, if you don’t have an estate or valid will, your estate will be listed as intestate.

This leaves the distribution of your assets and other belongings up to the state of California. The estate could be split amongst all your surviving family members, with your spouse inheriting most of it if they survive you.

However, just because the state will divide your assets up between your family members doesn’t mean they’ll do it in a way your family would like. It can also be expensive, on top of the federal estate taxes your family has to pay. For these reasons, it’s better to set up an estate plan sooner rather than later.


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