How does the Public Administrator’s Office get involved in a case?
The Public Administrator may be notified of a death by mortuaries, the Coroner, residential care facilities, hospitals, landlords, or private citizens when someone dies and there are assets to be protected or if the family of the decedent cannot be immediately located.
How does someone report such a case?
You may contact our office with general questions at (415) 473-6151, however all cases must have a properly submitted referral. You may submit a case for review and consideration by completing a referral form. All referrals received by our office will be properly investigated. To be assigned for investigation, all referrals must meet statutory and office submission requirements listed on the instructional page. Referrals not meeting submission requirements will be rejected and returned to the referring party.
Assignment & Investigative Process
All referrals meeting submission requirements that are received by our office are timely assigned to Deputy Public Administrators for initial screening and if appropriate, further investigation.
The Public Administrator's Office diligently investigates referrals to make timely determinations for further involvement. Investigative Determinations are typically made within thirty (30) calendar days with notification being sent to the referring party. For a variety of reasons, some referrals may require additional investigative time beyond thirty (30) calendar days to reach a determination. For these cases, the referring party will be sent an electronic "Status of Investigation" notification.
What is a formal probate proceeding?
It is the legal method of insuring that the creditors of an estate are paid and that the remaining property in the estate is distributed to the entitled persons. This process is carried out by the executor/administrator of the estate under the supervision of the Probate Division of the Superior Court.
If the value of an estate is in excess of $166,250, a Court proceeding is commenced by filing a petition to admit a will to probate and/or appoint an administrator. After a hearing, the Court will issue its Order to admit the decedent’s will to probate and/or appoint a personal representative.
Is there a less complicated way of handling small estates?
A less formal procedure called Summary Administration applies to estates having a value of $166,250 or less. It is designed to permit administration with very little, and in some cases no, Court involvement. Only the Public Administrator is authorized by law to handle a Summary Administration.
Should a beneficiary hire an attorney to represent his or her interests if the Public Administrator is acting as administrator?
The rights of heirs and beneficiaries are fixed by law. It is usually not necessary to hire an attorney because legal work is handled by the attorney for the Public Administrator. However, if your right to inherit is not clear, is challenged, or if substantial claims are made against the estate, you would be advised to retain legal counsel to represent your interests. The fees for such legal representation are your obligation and are not payable by the estate.