The Public Administrator’s office investigates and may administer the estates of individuals who were domiciled in Contra Costa County at the time of death and who die without a qualified person willing or able to assume the responsibility. The powers of the Public Administrator are mandated by the California Government and Probate Codes.
The primary duties of the Public Administrator are to:
- Thoroughly search for next of kin;
- Make final arrangements for the deceased when there are no known next of kin;
- Conduct thorough investigations to discover all assets belonging to the decedent;
- Protect the decedent's property from waste, loss or theft;
- Notify creditors and pay debts if the estate is solvent; and
- Pay the expenses of administration and distribute the balance of the estate to the persons legally entitled to inherit.
The Public Administrator's office conducts an investigation after a referral is received and it is determined that the Public Administrator has jurisdiction over the investigation. Referrals are typically received from the Contra Costa County Coroner, hospitals and mortuaries.
During the investigation, the Public Administrator searches for next of kin, legal documents such as a will or trust and other assets.
If next of kin are able to handle the estate, it may be turned over to them. If no next of kin are located, the Public Administrator will proceed as appropriate.
After the Public Administrator completes an investigation, a determination is made whether to open an estate. The Public Administrator administers estates pursuant to the provisions of the California Probate Code. When administering an estate, the Public Administrator will:
- Collect and sell all estate property (real and personal);
- Pay estate creditors and administration expenses; and
- Distribute the balance of the estate to the persons legally entitled to inherit.
If the total value of the estate does not exceed $50,000, the estate does not have to be administered under supervision of the Court. The Public Administrator must petition the Court to administer estates valued at more than $50,000.
Contra Costa County Counsel is the attorney for the Public Administrator and acts on the Public Administrator's behalf for all court appearances, litigation matters and other legal work.