Husband’s Death Undermines Widow’s Security

Case Study From Brook Thurston


A woman wandered into our Walnut Creek office looking confused and exhausted. I helped her to a chair and asked her how we could help. She told me that it had been nearly three months since her husband died, and she was still in shock about losing the love of her life. They’d been married for more than ten years, and she was trying to imagine life without him.

Canceling her insurance

In the midst of her grief, her homeowner’s insurance had called and told her if she didn’t go through Probate they would cancel her insurance. She went to the courthouse, then to a small company called Forms & More, who directed her to California Document Preparers because they knew we could help her.

We filed a Spousal Property Petition

I assured her that we absolutely could help her, and she immediately began crying and thanking me. We sat down together and I helped her fill out one of our workbooks, which allowed me to prepare and file a Spousal Property Petition—which is used after the death of a spouse to transfer the deceased spouse’s solely owned community property assets from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse. It’s an action in the probate court, which makes it sound more formidable than it is. While not straightforward, I tried to make it feel easy to my client so she’d be able to prove to the homeowner’s insurance company that she was in the process of finally settling her husband’s affairs after ten years.

No court appearance was necessary for our client

If there is no objection to the Spousal Property Petition, the court will sign an order transferring all community property to the surviving spouse’s sole ownership. There is usually no testimony required and these are often on the court’s preapproved list, which means that there will be no hearing and the court will sign the order unless someone unexpectedly objects. We always try to make the preapproved list, because it means that our self-represented client doesn’t have to make a court appearance. Mission accomplished!

I recorded the Spousal Property Order with the County Recorder, which completed the process and vested title in the name of our client. This turned out to be a simple solution and a very happy ending for our client, making her grief a little easier to bear.