Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in California

my dad has lived in CA USA since 1978, married to his (present)wife for many years & died this week. my step-mom has told me that she will give me a sum of money equivalent to the cash he put into the house they owned together. The house value is approx 2/3rds of original $600,000 buy price(give or take depending on todays US housing market) & she estimates dad put in approx $60,000 cash when they bought the property.my question is this: who decides the percentage of property ownership my dad had & therefore decides how much i am entitled to? can his wife pick the figure & that is accepted as fact or is the law the same there, as is here & being husband & wife, they each owned 50% of the property (house) value? I have zero knowledge of the contents of his will & living across the ocean in another country, i doubt if i will be informed. There will be no arguing over money between his wife & i as we are friends & she is now the only family i have. i understand people often behave badly when death & money are involved but that is NOT an option here. i have never made financial demands on my father & his death will not change that as having one person to call family is worth far more than any dollar value. this enquiry is to acquaint myself with a fact or two of california property law or the information required for me to research the answers for myself (please keep in mind i am middle-aged & NOT computer/i.net savvy).

thank you for your time & i await your answer, if you choose to do so.

k.j.maguire

brisbane

australia

Asked on 9/02/13, 4:56 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach
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First of all, I need to say that I am sorry for the loss of your father.

Second of all, I should say that I am quite fond of Australians. They were always good to me when I was overseas.

California has community property laws that apply upon the divorce or death of the spouses. The answer to your question depends on many facts, such as when the property was purchased (during marriage?), how title was held (joint tenancy), whether he left a will, whether property was held in trust, who paid mortgage payments during the marriage, etc.

There is a lot of issues here, and it is difficult to point you in the right direction.

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9/02/13, 5:07 pm

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