Question 4: What are the responsibilities of the Public Administrator?
A. Location of Beneficiaries and Heirs
When it appears that no one with higher authority is handling the decedent's estate, the Public Administrator has a duty to make a diligent search for a will and the names and addresses of heirs. If a will is found, the executor is notified.
If no will is found, then the Public Administrator will attempt to contact heirs to determine if they are willing or able to handle the estate. If there are no heirs or the heirs are unable to act, the Public Administrator may handle the disposition of the estate.
B. Possession of Assets
If no personal representative has been appointed, the Public Administrator has the responsibility to take prompt possession or control of a decedent’s property that is subject to loss, injury, waste, or misappropriation, or that the court orders into the possession or control of the Public Administrator. All assets of a decedent's estate are brought under the control of the Public Administrator when a determination is made that the Public Administrator will handle the estate.
C. Payment of Debts
The Public Administrator tries to ascertain the debts of each estate and notifies all known creditors. Creditor's Claims are sent and a minimum of four months is allowed for creditors to return their claim before the estate can be closed.
D. Sale of Personal and Real Property
The Santa Barbara County Public Administrator periodically liquidates property from various estates in order to pay the debts and make proper distribution. The personal property that is collected is usually auctioned. The auctions are open to the public for the purchase of estate items.
For more information about auctions contact the Public Administrator's office.
E. Distribution of Assets
The Public Administrator attempts to distribute an estate’s assets to those entitled to inherit. When there is no will, the proper order of those persons entitled to inherit is listed in the California Probate Code. However, determining who is entitled to inherit what and locating those individuals can be very challenging and time consuming.
In some cases those entitled to inherit have passed away. In other cases there may be no current address for heirs of a will among the decedent's possessions. These problems can drastically slow down the time of distribution. The provisions of some wills can be difficult to read or carry out.