Who are a person’s legal heirs?

UPDATED: Sep 12, 2011

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Who are a person’s legal heirs?

My cousin who lived in CA died without a Will. She was not actually a blood relative but her mother gave her away when she was about 2-3 weeks old and she was raised with our family. She has a birth certificate that has my aunt and uncle as her parents but we were told by an attorney that this was not good enough. She has sisters that have come into the picture to claim what she left. She doesn’t have any children. Do we as her cousins have any rights?

Asked on September 12, 2011 under Estate Planning, California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Good question. In California there are statutes in our probate code setting forth how assets of an person who dies without a will or a trust are to be distributed. These laws are called "intestacy statutes."

When a person passes without a will or a trust, the intestacy laws of each state where the person who passed resided last sets forth who is to receive the assets of the decedent.

If you can produce a certified copy of a birth certificate of your deceased cousin showing that your aunt and uncle were her parents, then under California's intestacy laws, your uncle and aunt and their children stand to inherit your cousin's assets in certain percentages as set forth in this state's intestacy laws.

I suggest that you consult with a probate attorney regarding this situation for further answers. Good luck.

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