What Happens to Property After the Death of a Spouse?

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    The death of a spouse is agonizing. There often seems to be a laundry list of administrative tasks to take care of following their death. From the funeral to the insurance policies to childcare and debts, it can often feel overwhelming. Many widows and widowers may not understand the process of inheriting property from a spouse who has passed. In fact, it may be the very last thing on their mind. However, property possession is an important matter to address as well after the death of a spouse.

    What is Property?

    We aren’t only talking about your family home. “Property” is a vague term that can apply to a wide variety of possessions or assets. While real property – in other words, real estate – certainly falls under the category, transferring property can also involve bank accounts, investments, physical possessions, and more. All the property the deceased spouse owned is their estate.

    How Do You Transfer Property After the Death of a Spouse in California?

    California is a community property state. This means the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the property accumulated during the marriage automatically. If the couple files for right of survivorship prior to a spouse’s death, the entirety of the community property can pass unhindered to the surviving spouse without going through probate. In these situations, all a surviving spouse must do is present an affidavit declaring survivorship and a death certificate to the managing organization of the property like a bank or mortgage lender. However, if there is no right of survivorship, the property must undergo probate before the surviving spouse can transfer it.