When a person in California passes away, a person referred to as the estate representative is responsible for managing the deceased’s estate as it moves through the probate process. If your loved one left a will, it is likely that they named an estate representative in that document. However, if no estate representative was named, if there was no will, or if there is a question about what was contained in the will, you must turn to California law to determine who will serve as estate representative.
If your loved one died without a will
If your loved one died intestate in California — that is, without a will — the person assigned to be estate representative depends in part on whether the deceased’s estate needs to be probated. Small estates that go through a simplified, informal procedure as opposed to formal probate will generally have a close relative serve as estate administrator in the absence of a will. However, if the estate must be formally probated, the court will appoint a person to be the estate representative. California law has a priority list for who to appoint as administrator in such circumstances.
What qualities should an estate representative have?
Being an estate representative is an important duty. Estate representatives have to be trustworthy, organized, diligent and responsible. They must make sure they know what is required of them, keep detailed records and keep all interested parties in the know about the estate as it progresses through the probate process. Estate representatives have a “fiduciary duty” to manage estate assets with due care and in a manner that is in everyone’s best interests. A breach of this fiduciary duty could expose the estate representative to personal liability.
Know your responsibilities as estate representative
It is an honor to be appointed estate representative following a loved one’s death. However, there are many duties and principles estate representatives must uphold. It is essential that estate representatives do their due diligence to ensure that they understand what they are responsible for and how to proceed with the probate of the deceased’s estate.