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While having a will or trust is the ideal way to inherit property from a family member who has recently passed away, unexpected deaths of family members due to accidents or sudden illness may mean the state will be left to distribute the property and assets of the deceased. If your family member has passed away without leaving a will in place, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to prove your heirship.

Proving Heirship

When a person dies without a will, their heirs may still be entitled to a share of the property and assets left by the deceased. However, before they can inherit any property or assets, they must first convince the probate court of their relationship to the deceased.

To establish heir status in California, you may file an “affidavit of heirship” in the Superior Court of the county where your deceased family member’s property is located. California family code states that the petition must include the heir’s basic information including a description of the property you are claiming, your name, age, and residence, and the names and information of other potential heirs if they are known. In addition to the required information, it may be helpful to include evidence of your relationship to the deceased such as a birth certificate.

You must also file a decree of determination of heirship with the court in the county of the estate is located. If granted, this decree establishes the petitioner’s identity as an heir of the state, as well as their claim to the property or asset as valid. If the decree is granted, you must notify all relevant parties that the petition was filed.

After proceeding through the aforementioned process, the court may issue a decree confirming heirship, which serves as legal proof that you are an heir to the decedent’s estate.

Contesting Heirships

You may find yourself in the position of contesting heirships petitioned by people who feel they have a claim to your family member’s property and assets. California family code states that any party with a possible claim to property has the right to dispute a petition. The court will set a hearing during which any interested party with a claim to the decedent’s property may contest the heir status of a petitioner claiming rights to property and assets.


Contact a Skilled Estate planning Lawyer in California

Daniel Leahy is prepared to treat your unique situation with the sensitivity and attention to detail it deserves. Mr. Leahy is an experienced Northern California attorney who focuses on matters of trusts and estate law. Serving Alameda County and the surrounding area, the Law Offices of Daniel Leahy in Oakland are prepared to handle your legal questions after a loved one has passed. Call (510) 985-4151 or contact us to schedule a free consultation.