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Intestate succession is not as straightforward as you may think p2

Law students learn how to read statutes, to be careful with conjunctions and punctuation. They learn, too, how to research legislative intent. If there are questions about how to apply a law, for example, you would go back to records of debates or written analyses, even speeches to figure out what they were thinking when they wrote the law.

With California law, we often wonder if it's better to look at back issues of the Hollywood Reporter or Variety. The entertainment industry carries such weight here that lawmakers seem to have championed business and social legalities that would probably warrant less attention elsewhere. Child labor laws, guardianship laws -- remember "palimony?"

We have not researched the provenance of California's tweaks to the Uniform Probate Code, but the wording makes you wonder. We were discussing intestate estates and the rules that apply to parents who are unfortunate enough to be the intestate heirs to a child's estate. When we left off, we were talking about provisions that bar a parent from inheriting -- say, when the parent has terminated his or her parental rights.

California law is pretty specific about the role a parent should play in a child's life if he or she is to inherit. Please turn your statute books to section 6452 of the probate code: A parent will not be an intestate heir if

The parent left the child during the child's minority without an effort to provide for the child's support or without communication from the parent, for at least seven consecutive years that continued until the end of the child's minority, with the intent on the part of the parent to abandon the child. The failure to provide support or to communicate for the prescribed period is presumptive evidence of an intent to abandon.

Other states aren't quite as specific about the behavior, much less the timeframe. Seven years?

The statute adds that a parent who has not acknowledged the child cannot be an intestate heir. (These days, this may apply more to professional football players than Hollywood types.)

We paused for a moment at another provision. Section 6411 states, "No person is disqualified to take as an heir because that person or a person through whom he or she claims is or has been an alien." It took a second to realize that the law refers to foreign nationals, not extraterrestrial life forms.

Of course, this is California ….

Source: California Probate Code §§ 6411, 6452 (West) via WestlawNext

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