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Who becomes your personal representative if you die intestate?

How your estate would pass on if you happen to die without a will in Los Angeles has been documented in previous posts on this blog. Yet if you do die intestate (without a will), that process does still not happen automatically. Rather, a personal representative would need to be appointed to manage your estate's administration (even if the details of that administration are being determined by state law). However, how can such a role be filled if you leave no instructions as to who should be appointed to it? 

Again, the law dictates this as well. The priority of appointment for a personal representative of an intestate estate closely follows the state's intestate succession guidelines. Per the state's Probate Code, it goes as follows: 

  • Your spouse (or domestic partner) 
  • Your children
  • Your grandchildren (or any other surviving issue)
  • Your parents
  • Your siblings
  • Your siblings' issue

It continues on down the line to your predeceased spouse's relatives, your next of kin, your conservator or guardian (if you had one), and finally to a public administrator or your creditors. The fact that any of the parties mentioned above will also have a personal interest in your estate (per intestate succession guidelines) does not disqualify them from acting as your personal representative. 

Say that you and your spouse are in process of getting a divorce when you die. If you are still living together, then his or her priority of appointment is unchanged. If you have separated, then his or her priority is after that of your siblings. This may be viewed as yet another reason why creating your own will is preferable to leaving your estate's management and dispersal subject to the laws of the state.  

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