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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33934
Experience:  Estate Law Expert
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My biological mom died in 2010 in Fresno, California. I have

Customer Question

My biological mom died in 2010 in Fresno, California. I have been going back and forth with my mom’s death benefits insurance company which is CalPERS. My mom never did her beneficiary designation. Once she passed they were going to give the money to my step dad. I have been his daughter since I was two. He passed away in 2013 before he received any money. The insurance company is telling me her death benefits can only go to my step dad’s biological children. Once my mom passed away her estate would atomically go to my step dad since they were married. However, he want the estate to go to me and my brother. My step dad died before the probate was completed. It was final a few months later giving the estate to my brother and me. They sent my brother a check, but they are stating I am not going to get anything since I am not my step dad’s biological child. Since I am my mom first born shouldn’t I receive something? Since I am on the estate of my mom and step dad and it was going through probate when my step dad passed away shouldn’t I receive something?
Is there anything I can do? I live in Washington State. Please, let me know what you think.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts.

I'd be glad to discuss this with you but I want to make sure that you understand and agree to how the rating system works. The experts here have no control over whether the law is in your favor or not, all we can do is provide a correct answer. However, some customers get upset if the law isn't what they want to hear and either don't rate or issue a negative rating even though we are doing our job by providing a correct response.

I need to you to answer a few questions and we can continue forward, operating under the understanding of how the rating system works. If this isn't agreeable just let me know.

1) Did your step father adopt you?

2) Did your mother leave a will? If so, to who did she leave her property?

3) Did your step father? If so, to who did he leave his property?

4) Is the "death benefits" an insurance policy or a retirement/benefits policy?

5) Did your mother's policy specifically name a beneficiary?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
1) Did your step father adopt you? No2) Did your mother leave a will? No3) Did your step father? No will, but he did see a lawyer for the probate so that my mom's estate is given to me and my brother. The probate was finalized a few months after he died.4) Is the "death benefits" an insurance policy or a retirement/benefits policy? I am pretty sure it is her retirement benfits.5) Did your mother's policy specifically name a beneficiary? No
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 years ago.

When your mother passed away, immediately upon her death all of her assets were "vested" in a legal entity known as "her estate". The purpose of a probate proceeding is to pay any debts she owed and to pass title to all assets remaining after that from the estate to the heirs.

If someone passes away without a will and without beneficiary designations on accounts then the estate passes by way of a designated plan under the law known as "intestate succession".

In California, the laws of intestate succession say that the estate would have passed by intestate succession as follows:

  • the spouse would inherit all of the community property and 1/2 or 1/3 of the separate property
  • the children would inherit 1/2 or 2/3 of the separate property

The retirement account could have been all community property, if she started working there after they were married, or it could have been partially separate property and partially community property. That would determine who inherited it upon your mother's death subject to any federal laws depending on exactly what kind of retirement account it was and how it was funded. If it was all accumulated after they were married then it would all go to the step-father anyway.

Under CA law, if there was no will and no beneficiary designation, then you as a step-child would not inherit any of his property. It would only be inherited by his "natural born" children or any adopted children.

At this point if any part of the retirement account was accumulated before she was married to your step-father than you would be entitled to a share of that.