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What Is a Child Entitled to When a Parent Dies in California

What Is a Child Entitled to When a Parent Dies in California?

Losing a parent is a devastating experience for any child, and the emotional toll it takes can be overwhelming. In addition to the emotional aspect, there are also legal matters that need to be addressed, especially when it comes to the child’s rights and entitlements. In the state of California, there are specific laws in place to protect the rights of children when a parent passes away. This article will explore what a child is entitled to when a parent dies in California, offering guidance and information for those facing such difficult circumstances.

1. Inheritance Rights:
When a parent dies in California, the child is entitled to a share of their parent’s estate, regardless of whether or not there is a valid will. California follows the laws of intestate succession, which means that if the parent dies without a will, their property will be distributed according to a predetermined order of priority. Typically, the child will inherit a portion of the estate, along with any other surviving children or relatives.

2. Social Security Benefits:
If the deceased parent had paid into the Social Security system, their child may be eligible for survivor benefits. These benefits can provide financial assistance to help cover the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and education. To qualify for Social Security benefits, the child must be unmarried and under the age of 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student).

3. Life Insurance Policies:
If the deceased parent had a life insurance policy, the child may be named as a beneficiary. Life insurance policies are designed to provide financial support to the surviving family members, including children, in the event of the policyholder’s death. The child’s entitlement to the policy proceeds will depend on the specific terms and conditions outlined in the policy.

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4. Guardianship and Custody:
When a parent dies, it is important to establish who will have legal guardianship and custody of the child. If the deceased parent had not appointed a guardian in their will, the court will determine who will assume this responsibility. The court’s primary concern is the child’s best interests, and they will consider various factors before making a decision. These factors may include the child’s relationship with potential guardians, their living situation, and the ability of the potential guardian to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs.


Q: Can a child inherit property if the deceased parent had a will?
A: Yes, a child can inherit property even if the deceased parent had a will. However, the child’s entitlement will depend on the provisions outlined in the will. If the will specifically mentions the child as a beneficiary, they will receive their designated share. If the will does not mention the child, they may still be entitled to a portion of the estate under the laws of intestate succession.

Q: What happens if the child’s other parent is still alive?
A: If the child’s other parent is alive, they typically have legal custody and guardianship rights by default. However, if the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child, the court may consider alternative guardianship options. The court’s priority is to ensure the child’s well-being and safety.

Q: Can a child receive both Social Security survivor benefits and an inheritance?
A: Yes, a child can receive both Social Security survivor benefits and an inheritance. These are separate entitlements based on different legal provisions. However, it’s important to note that certain government benefits may be affected by the child’s inheritance, so it is advisable to consult with an attorney or financial advisor to understand the potential implications.

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Q: Can a child contest a will if they feel unfairly treated?
A: Yes, a child can contest a will if they believe they have been unfairly treated or disinherited. However, contesting a will can be a complex legal process, and it requires valid grounds for doing so. It is recommended to seek legal advice from an experienced estate attorney to determine the best course of action.

Losing a parent is undoubtedly a difficult and emotional time for any child. Understanding their rights and entitlements can provide some stability and assurance during this challenging period. It is advisable to consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected and their entitlements are secured.

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