Hastings Law Journal


The laws of intestate succession have traditionally precluded stepchildren from sharing in the intestate estate of their stepparents. In 1985 the California legislature rejected this tradition by enacting what is now California Probate Code section 6454, which established intestacy rights for stepchildren who could satisfy certain requirements. California courts of appeal have disagreed on the interpretation of one of the statute's requirements, causing a split that the California Supreme Court has not yet resolved.

This Note begins by summarizing the traditional treatment of stepchildren in the law of intestate succession. Next it analyzes section 6454 and the decisions that have interpreted the statute. After a full examination of the cases that caused the split, this Note argues that the dynamic nature of modern American families compels courts to read section 6454 in a way that will allow stepchildren to inherit whenever they show that their relationship with their stepparent was a meaningful one. Finally, this Note asserts that section 6454 itself is inherently flawed, and therefore proposes that the legislature amend section 6454 in order to grant probate courts the discretion to allow intestate succession for any stepchild who establishes the existence of a legitimate parent-child relationship.

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