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By: Scott Grossman on August 5th, 2016

If There Is No Will, How Is the Representative of the Estate Chosen?

California Intestate Probate: Appointing the Administrator

When an estate has to go to California probate and no will can be found, the probate law confirms that the probate is “intestate” (without a will) and determines the order of priority of the relatives of the decedent who come in line to act as the representative of the estate. The person appointed as representative of the estate is called the administrator.

Can someone refuse to be appointed as an administrator?

First off, the administrator must be a US resident. If a person having priority does not want to serve as a representative, this person may sign a document in which he or she declines to serve and wishes to instead nominate someone to act in his or her place.

If the person making the nomination is a surviving spouse (or domestic partner), child, grandchild, parent, brother, sister, or grandparent of the decedent, this nominee has priority over those in the same class as the person making the request.

Who comes in line to become administrator of the estate?

The priority list for appointing administrators in California intestate probate is:

  1. Surviving spouse or domestic partner
  2. Children
  3. Grandchildren
  4. Other issues, like great-grandchildren
  5. Parents
  6. Brothers and sisters
  7. Issue of brothers and sisters
  8. Grandparents
  9. Issue of grandparents, like uncles, aunts, first cousins
  10. Children of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
  11. Other issues of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
  12. Other next of kin
  13. Parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
  14. Issue of parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
  15. Conservator or guardian of the estate of the decedent, acting as such at the time of death
  16. Public administrator
  17. Creditors
  18. Any other person.

When the decedent has more than one child, in most cases the administrator is selected informally among the children. However, two or more children may petition to be co-administrators.

The logic behind the priority system is that roughly the same order of priority applies to decide who will inherit part of the estate, and those who are entitled to receive property are also more inclined to manage it properly.

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