When a loved one dies, it can be hard to know where to turn or what to do next. The probate process can seem complicated and overwhelming. Fortunately, California law helps surviving spouses more easily transfer some property from the deceased without going through the full probate process. California Probate Code §13500 provides for a simplified transfer of property from the deceased to their surviving spouse. This can be accomplished through a Spousal Property Petition.
Only a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or a representative of the surviving spouse or partner can file a Spousal Property Petition.
The assets that can be transferred using a Spousal Property Petition depend upon whether the deceased left a will and the contents of that will.
- If a will exists and the surviving spouse or domestic partner is the only beneficiary, then all of the property listed in the will can be transferred with a Spousal Property Petition.
- If the will lists other beneficiaries in addition to the surviving spouse or domestic partner, then only the property listed as passing to the surviving spouse can be transferred through the Spousal Property Petition. Additional assets passing to other heirs would need to go through full probate in order to be transferred.
- If there is no will, then only the property that would pass to a surviving spouse or domestic partner under intestate succession can be transferred through a Spousal Property Petition. This is usually limited to community property and separate property would need to go through full probate.
There are some forms you will need to file for the Spousal Property Petition. You will also need to attach a copy of the will if there is one, and possibly a copy of the death certificate. If there is no will, you will need to show that the property in question is community property. This can be an agreement in writing or something like a grant deed with a notation that the property is owned by both parties as community property. You will also need to provide notice of a hearing to any other interested parties, such as other heirs.
While the spousal property transfer process can seem overwhelming, I can help. As an experienced trusts and estates attorney, I can guide you through the petition and share the burden of dealing with the probate court. Send me an email or call me at 714-639-1990 to schedule a consultation.