How to Be Appointed the Personal Representative for the Deceased in California

By Abby Lane

Executors, also called personal representatives or administrators, handle a deceased person’s estate during the probate process. In every case, to be named executor of a California estate officially, you must ask, or petition, the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived.

Executors, also called personal representatives or administrators, handle a deceased person’s estate during the probate process. In every case, to be named executor of a California estate officially, you must ask, or petition, the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived.

Named Executor

Most wills name a specific person as the executor. In California, the named executor must be at least 18 years old and must not be subject to conservatorship, meaning another person cannot have been appointed by a court to make financial decisions for you, or otherwise unable to serve. If you are named the executor, you still must ask the court to appoint you as executor and issue your “letters.” Letters, or official documents from the court, give you the authority to act as executor of the estate.

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No Will

If there is no will, you may ask the court to be appointed executor of the decedent’s estate. In such cases, the court may appoint you as executor if you are a resident of the United States and have priority, meaning you are related to the decedent more closely than other parties asking to be named executor. Generally speaking, surviving spouses have priority over children, who have priority over grandchildren, who have priority over great-grandchildren and so on. The California probate code provides an extensive list that details who has priority over whom.

No Named Executor

If the will does not name an executor, the court follows the same procedures to appoint an executor as it does when there is no will at all. The court also follows these procedures if the person nominated to serve as executor is deceased, incapacitated or chooses not to serve.

Executor Duties

An executor is an officer of the court whose duties include making prudent investments with the estate’s assets, keeping its assets separate, and taking and filing an inventory of the estate. An executor must also keep meticulous records. Before the court issues your letters, it requires you to acknowledge your duties as the named executor on a special form to be submitted to the court. You also must take an oath promising to uphold those duties.

Payment

An executor's duties range in complexity, depending on the size of the estate and the potential beneficiaries. As such, you may be entitled to a fee for your services; the amount is often determined by the estate's value. Although you may be paid for your time, carefully consider whether you have the desire and skills to serve as executor before taking on the responsibility.

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What Are the Qualifications for an Executor for an Estate?

References

Related articles

How Soon After Death Must One Probate a Will in California?

Probate is a legal process by which a person's assets are distributed after death. Probate in California takes place in the Superior Court of the county where the person died. Many, but not all, estates are subject to probate. A personal representative, also called the executor, must petition the court for probate within 30 days after learning of the decedent's death.

What Does a Petition for Letters Mean in Probate Court in California

California’s Superior Court, probate division, generally oversees the administration of estates of a certain size when assets do not pass directly to a surviving spouse. Although you may have been named as personal representative in a will or you are an heir of someone who dies without a will, you need the court's authority to settle an estate. The court will not seek you out to appoint you as personal representative, so you must petition for an order that gives you that authority; the order is referred to as “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration.”

How to File for Probate if Heirs Live in New Mexico & Decedent Lived in Arizona

Whether a person dies with or without a will in Arizona, an estate usually must pass through probate before transfer to heirs. Probate is a court-supervised administration of the estate. Probate of an estate in Arizona begins when the court issues letters to an individual giving him authority to serve as "personal representative" of the deceased and administer the estate. You file for probate in Arizona by petitioning to serve as personal representative.

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