How do I claim my child's assets if there is no will?

Question

My daughter died unexpectedly without leaving a will. She was unmarried and had no children. I, her mother, am next of kin. She had a 401(k) plan (but did not name a beneficiary) as well as money in mutual funds and an IRA. How do I get these funds? I live in California, as did my daughter.

Answer

The property your daughter owned when she died is called her "estate." Under California law, in your situation, parents inherit everything. To claim the assets, you may need to conduct a probate court proceeding.  However, if the estate's value is under $100,000, you can instead use simplified transfer procedures allowed by California law. Most likely, you will not need a lawyer to do this. For help with the details, you might want to consult Nolo's book, How to Probate an Estate in California, by Julia Nissley.

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