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Torrance Estate Planning & Probate > Blog > Estate Planning > Why You May Want To Avoid California’s 120-Hour Rule

Why You May Want To Avoid California’s 120-Hour Rule


When we think of leaving property to others, we just assume that they will predecease us. But what if they don’t? Or, what if they live longer than we do—but only slightly longer? This kind of situation can create problems that can potentially be avoided by good, solid estate planning.

The 120 Hour Rule

If you have no will or other estate planning documents, the law requires that whomever is set to inherit from you by California’s intestate laws, must outlive you by 120 hours. If they do not, then it is assumed that they did not survive you, and your property will pass to whomever else is in line to inherit—that is, it will be assumed, legally, that the person predeceased you.

But in reality, 120 hours—just 5 days—is not that long of a period in time, and it can cause serious estate planning problems.

A Practical Problem

Let’s say that you leave half of your estate to your adult son, and half to a charity of your choice. You are in a car accident with your son in the car. You pass immediately, and your son oases away just six days later—or else, your adult son wanes, comatose for weeks, until being taken off of life support.

The problem with this situation (from an estate planning standpoint), is that your adult son has outlived the 120 hours limit, and thus, can inherit the half of your property that you left to him. But he never really got to use, enjoy, appreciate, or take advantage of what you left him. And you could have left that money to someone else—say, more to the charity, or to another relative, or to anything or anybody else that could have used that money or those assets.

Worse, because your adult son inherited that half of your  property, that inheritance would go to whomever is set to inherit under his estate plan. You may not know those people, or want those people to inherit your property.

Overriding the Rule

This is why you can override the 120 hour rule in your will. Doing this ensures that if someone else does outlive you, that they must outlive you by a period of time that makes it as clear as possible that he or she will get the benefit of what you have left to that person. If the person does not live long enough, you can have alternative arrangements in your will.

Simultaneous Death

The same problems can arise when there is a simultaneous death—say, where a husband and wife are in a car or plane accident. In that case, it is assumed that each person predeceased each other. Practically, the estate of one spouse becomes a beneficiary of the estate of the other. That may be fine, if that’s what you want. But if not, estate planning can also address this situation the way you want to handle it.

Call the Torrance will and estate attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today for help planning for all contingencies in your estate plan.




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