When a person in Los Angeles dies without expressing his or her wishes for his or her estate, that is a legal condition known as “intestate.” Under California law, an intestate estate generally passes to the deceased’s surviving spouse or children. But if there is no spouse, children or immediate relatives, it may become necessary for the executor to search for other relatives to inherit the assets.
Such searches can be difficult and may not express the deceased’s wishes. That is why it is important for everyone to make arrangements for their estate through either a will, a trust of a combination of both.
In a recent example, a group of American cousins learned that they were the heirs of a distant relative from Ireland. The woman died in 2008 with a $1.5 million estate but no will or trust. She never had children and long outlived her husband, leaving no known heirs. Her maternal relative were discovered relatively quickly, but most of her family on her father’s side left Ireland to find work decades ago.
They included six aunts and uncles who came to Massachusetts. Most of them and their children died before the decedent, disqualifying their descendants from inheriting. Ultimately, the search for qualified heirs led to 17 cousins in the United States, who each inherited about $36,000. For some of the heirs, meeting long-lost cousins they never knew they had was even more important than the money.
The estate search was the subject of a popular documentary film in Ireland.
Source: Boston Globe, “Residents fine family and fortune,” Kathleen Conti, March 14, 2013