Can Stepchildren Become Heirs In California?

Who Has The Legal Right To Inherit Estates In California

When you die without a will, your legal family members will have the automatic right to become heirs. But, of course, if you have an established Last Will And Testament in California that details exactly how your estate will be divided between heirs, family members, and even charity.

That said, what happens if you don't have a will in California? Who is automatically eligible to become heirs of your estate? Do stepchildren have the right to get portions of your estate over legal children?

Let's discuss how it works, as experienced by our prescreened California estate planning attorneys:

california estate planning lawyer

Who Are Eligible Heirs Under California Law?

If someone dies without a will in California, their estates will be passed on to legally-recognized eligible heirs. An heir's eligibility depends on how closely related they are to the deceased.

Let's look at how that might work in California:

1. Heirs-At-Law

California's Intestate Succession legislation prioritizes heirs based on how closely they are related to the deceased. Surviving spouses and children come first when qualifying as direct heirs-at-law. Grandchildren would only be considered direct heirs if their parents had already passed away.

2. Collateral Heirs

If there are no surviving spouses, children, or grandchildren, the property will be distributed to the decedent's parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members in that order after the heirs-at-law.

california will and testament lawyer

What About Stepchildren?

In California, unadopted stepchildren won't be eligible heirs unless no other direct relative is there to claim so. This means that unadopted stepchildren will only inherit your estate if your legal children, spouse, parents, and grandchildren refuse the inheritance or cannot be contacted.

Do note that an adopted non-biological child is still considered a legal child.

If you're having problems will your parent's estate or wish to establish your own last will and testament, you should consult with a prescreened California estate lawyer to help you ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

What If The Heirs Are Unknown?

California estate law requires special notice to be published in the newspaper when a decedent has no known heirs-at-law so that anyone who thinks they are connected to the deceased can come forward and be identified.

They will go through a legal process to prove their heirship, after which they would be eligible to receive the deceased person's property. The decedent's assets and property would be given to the state if no heirs were found.

You Should Write A Will In California

To avoid problems with how your estate will be distributed, you should have your last will and testament in place. This also reduces any future interpersonal and legal conflicts among prospective heirs.

Not to mention, you don't have to be at a certain age to write a last will and testament in California. So even young clients, as long as they have some properties or money stored away, can have a will or a living trust set up.

As wills are legal documents, you want to ensure everything is covered and phrased in a way that reflects your wishes. So, you should contact a prescreened Los Angeles estate law attorney ASAP. Your estate lawyer in California can help you review your estates, help you with the crucial documents, and advise you on your best legal options.

estate planning lawyer los angeles

Find A Will and Testament Lawyer in California

Ensure your future and your potential heirs'! is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a fitting Estate Lawyer In California. You can contact us through our 24/7 Live Chat (or complete our submission form) for a Free Initial Case Review.

los angeles attorney referral service

California State Bar Certified Lawyer Referral And Information Service is a California State Bar Certified and approved Lawyer Referral and Information Service.

We provide unbiased and impartial lawyer referrals. This service isn't owned nor operated by lawyers receiving. referrals.


Our objective is that you receive the best comprehensive, high-quality legal representation while holding California attorneys to the highest standards of professional conduct.

Why Lawyer Referrals Matter


The California State Bar investigates on average 16,000 complaints of professional misconduct by attorneys annually.

We offer unbiased California attorney referrals and conduct due diligence by researching and recommending the best local attorney for your case. 


We verify attorneys are in good standing and have the required experience in the type of law related to your legal issue. 

Learn more about attorney discipline here:


Our History 


Since 2005, we have assisted people who need legal representation but whose ability to locate reputable California Lawyers is frustrated by unreliable law firm marketing of self-promoting lawyers and biased legal advertising.

How the LRS Works 

Anyone seeking competent and honest legal representation in California, can request a FREE lawyer referral. 

Once you submit your case details online, our legal 24-hour legal department will review your claim and reply via email. Most cases are reviewed and answered within 15 minutes. 


A free 30 minute consultation with the attorney will be offered to each referred client. 

A representative will follow up a few days later via email with the client after receiving a referral for quality management purposes, or to obtain the status of the case. 

About lawyers from our network

California lawyers in our network are insured, in good standing with the California State Bar, and have substantial experience in their practice area.


Attorneys are available in most areas of law throughout Southern California. Every lawyer in or network has been vetted for:

  • Credentials

  • Education

  • Communication skills

  • Performance

  • Client reviews

  • Fair legal fees

  • Continuing education

  • Professional affiliations

Additionally, we conduct criminal  background checks and attorneys are always monitored by our service.