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By: Scott Grossman on October 15th, 2016

Court Determination of a Potential Heir’s Rights

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When a relative passes away, you may find yourself left on the outs with the administration of the estate. This may be concerning if you believe you’re a rightful heir. Especially if the person in charge of administering the estate is not acknowledging you as such. The California probate system provides remedies for potential heirs looking for a definitive determination to their rights in the estate.

Four Steps for Determining Heirship

Simply arguing with the person in charge of administering the estate is not enough to establish your rights and protect your right to any property of the estate. Instead, you will likely need to pursue a legal action by getting the court involved in making a determination of your status as an heir. Generally, this process works as follows:

  1. The potential heir files an affidavit of heirship in the court where the property is located or the estate administration is taking place. This affidavit serves to establish the potential heir’s alleged rights to the property of the estate. It should contain evidence that supports the potential heir’s status as an heir, a legal description of the property, and the name, age, and residence of each person that is asserting his or her status as an heir to the estate.
  2. The potential heir petitions the appropriate court to issue a decree of determination of heirship. This decree, if granted, establishes the petitioner’s identity as an heir of the estate. The decree also establishes that the heir’s claim to the property at issue is valid.
  3. The potential heir must provide all other interested parties to the estate with notice of the filing.
  4. If the court agrees with the potential heir’s claims and issues the requested decree of heirship, this documentation may then used to demonstrate ownership of property. The decree serves as legal proof that the party who submitted the petition is an heir. When there are multiple heirs who all have equal status within the state, such as multiple children of the deceased, they each receive an equal share of the estate property.

Further Information on Heirship

Whether or not a potential heir has a valid interest in an estate depends on many factors. Firstly, California law dictates which relatives of a decedent inherits the assets if the decedent dies without a will or trust. Under the law, descendants of the estate are first in line to be heirs. This includes children of the decedent, and if there are no children then living, the grandchildren of the decedent. Under California law, the definition of “children” includes children born after the death of the decedent.

When there are no living descendants, California law directs that we look to the ancestors to determine heirs. First in line are the parents of the deceased. If there are no living parents, then grandparents, or potentially siblings, of the decedent may be deemed heirs. In the rare cases where no heir can be found, the property is forfeited back to the state of California.