Calif Probate - Public Admin & Public Probate Attorney ?

cathie54May 5, 2008

Lost relative died intestate 4 months ago. Is in probate in No.Calif. They found NO known next of kin. (Had wrong spellings of names) We just found out last week.

Three of us talked to Court appointed atty (via phone) at different times. First understanding was they will handle it IF we want. The other two of us were told we need to find someone to be administrator, AND, we need to find an atty - "Preferably one who specializes in Probate".

He STRONGLY URGED this, and said they want it OUT of their office.

None of us have been thru anything like this before, but we are not able to be administrator due to Medical issues. So, we don't know what to do about that.

More confusing, Does anyone know WHY he says we need to hire a Probate Atty? Is this mandatory? Or, advisable?

They've already filed some docs with the court.

According to the asset summary, there's only about $4500 personal property, but there's Real Property (triplex) in which was 1/2 ownership...with a 'business partner'. (I'm assuming rental income likely)

Could it be because of the 1/2 ownership in Real Property that we were told to get atty?

Several County sites seem to be saying the Public Administrator will handle it if no-one "is willing or able", but it's sounding like we MUST appoint/hire outsiders.

There is a hearing in about 3 weeks for creditors or anyone who has claims.

I'm CLUELESS and confused.

Anyone with experience in such, can you try to help clarify this for me?

And, are we supposed to to something important prior to that hearing date?

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First, I am not an attorney nor do I know anything about the laws of California.

I suggest that you hire an attorney just to discuss options and ways to protect your inheritance.

Do you have any idea what the triplex is worth and how much the liens on it may be?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 9:32AM
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Find yourself an estate attorney ASAP. Do not depend on an overburdened public attorney to be your advocate; with the best willingness in the world, they don't have the time.

Fees for an attorney on a probated estate are set by law; you will pay a set percentage based on the worth of the estate. The majority of the fee is paid **by the estate**, not by you, before the estate is released from probate court. You will have to pay a deposit, I believe, but that is a set percentage of the overall fee.

Do not get a "friend of a friend". I once went through two estate attorneys on my sister's estate, a very simple one with no RE holdings, until I found a third attorney who wrapped the whole thing up in a month. The previous attorney had been twiddling his thumbs - the first thing you learn about probate law is that NOBODY is in any hurry, in or out of court - but after 16 months we were getting tired of the run-around.

Obtain referrals from the CA bar association and check out the referral names' references. Do it now, and don't delay! You don't know what the other half-owner of the triplex is doing or what the legal arrangements were. Who's paying the mortgage currently? And if the finances were set up 50-50% the deceased's portion of the rents should be going into an escrow account as of the day of death, along with the estate paying its proportionate share of the mortgage every month.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 12:16PM
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valued over $250k-500k for RE property. Don't know much more (liens, etc). Personal property It was clear the court has '1000's of cases' in the office - thus no time.
I've been checking the 'Bar' and other places while waiting for communication from another sibling. And, yes, I do not want a 'friend of a friend' situation.

I have 'speculations' about the property, but that's all - only speculations. We don't know if there's a mortgage, equity loan, etc. Know nothing really except addy. (Oh, but property taxes are paid up & current)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:34AM
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This is why you get an attorney. Medical problems, as along as they do not affect your rationality of mind, will not prevent you from receiving good advice and signing the correct paperwork. The attorney will file the needed documents in court and unless contested there will probably be no need for any personal appearances.

Once someone is appointed executor (approved by the courts) to replace the public trustee, things can start moving; e.g., getting current appraisal as of day of death on the property.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 7:06PM
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I am a California attorney and practice probate law. (Not in Northern Calif.) What has happened is that the Public Administrator is handling the case because no family member wants to do it. They will hire an attorney and they will both receive fees for their time and costs, or will get statutory fees.They certainly will not be less expensive than a private attorney. They will sell the property and the money that is left over will go to heirs. Its tricky to negotiate with the other owner of the property but thats the largest asset in the estate.
You will end up with less money if the Public Admin handles it. Certainly you need to pick a good probate attorney. I would go to court on Probate day and see who's there and listen to the proceedings. Its a good way to select somebody. Recently I needed an attorney in another location and I went online to see the calendar for the probate court, and then looked up the names of the attorneys on the State Bar website. It had addresses, phone numbers.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 6:55PM
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It seems like a long time. We DID finally get a Probate Atty in the area, & someone is going to handle this Administrative task - (w/ help of a private Fiduciary, IF needed)
I really didn't feel comfy w/the Public Admin to handle this. (Felt like they weren't doing a great job - just for fact they were looking for 'next-of-kin' w/wrong spellings of last names!) And certain, to sell the property off at very low price just to geet the 'file' closed.

The 50% living owner - we were 'told' (by Public Admin) is "a really nice guy, & wants to sell". (He's from a long bloodline of 'legals'- get this: ESTATE PLANNIING, etc.!)
This makes me nervous.

Been doing a lot of reading/research. The way I see it, we'll be lucky to get NOTHING! LOL! (8 way split minimum)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 5:42AM
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Cathie, glad to hear things are progressing, at least a bit, for you. Good luck going forward!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 2:37PM
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