Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Public Administrator do?

The Public Administrator protects the assets of a decedent by taking immediate charge of property when someone has died and:

  • When there is no next of kin;
  • When no executor or administrator has been appointed;
  • When property belonging to the person’s estate is at risk of loss, damage or misappropriation; or
  • When ordered by the Court.

Once appointed the Public Administrator

  • Protects the decedent’s property from waste, loss or theft;
  • Makes arrangements for disposition of the remains;
  • Ensures that the estate is administered according to the decedent’s wishes;
  • Pays the decedent’s bills and taxes;
  • Locates persons entitled to inherit from the estate and ensures that these individuals receive their inheritance.


How does the Public Administrator’s Office get involved in a case?

The Public Administrator may be notified of death by mortuaries, the coroner, residential facilities, hospitals, landlords, or private citizens when someone dies and there are assets to protect or the family of the decedent cannot be located immediately.
The Superior Court may also appoint the Public Administrator when an estate is contested or when there is risk of loss, waste or misappropriation of estate assets.

How do you report a case?

To report a case call the Public Administrator’s office at (831) 636-4043.  The Public Administrator deputies will provide assistance.

Will the Public Administrator make funeral arrangements?


  • The Public Administrator will make funeral arrangements when there is no relative to do so.
  • The Public Administrator will assist the family in making funeral arrangements when the Public Administrator is acting as administrator.
  • The Public Administrator will make arrangements according to any pre-paid burial plans made by the decendent and within the ability of the estate to pay for these services out of the assets.


Is estate property ever sold?

If an estate is insolvent or has insufficient cash assets to pay creditors, taxes and fees, property will have to be sold to pay these obligations.  If an estate is solvent and has sufficient funds for payment of debts, heirs may be given the opportunity to select estate assets that they want to receive in place of cash.  If real property is vacant it is usually sold as soon as possible.  However, if an heir wishes to receive real property as part of his/her distribution, he/she should make such wishes known and reach an agreement with the Public Administrator.

How does the Public Administrator sell the estate?

The San Benito County Public Administrator sells real estate property by listing it with a licensed Real Estate Broker after publishing legal notices.  Real property is always sold “as is” with no guarantee as to condition.
The Public Administrator generally sells portable personal property on-line through Property  Automobiles and other large goods may be sold through notices in the local paper.

Who can make a claim against the estate?

Anyone who is owed money by the decedent at the time of death can file a Creditor’s Claim.  The claim must be filed with the Court against the estate in order to receive payment from the estate. The Public Administrator, as personal representative, notifies all known creditors that they must file a claim within the statutory period (see Probate Code 19100-19104).
Claims must be filed before expiration of the later of the following times:

  • Four months after the first publication of notice to creditors
  • Sixty days after the date actual notice is mailed or personally delivered to the creditor.

What’s Probate?

Probate is a Court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid. Though in current usage, this term has been expanded to generally include all matter and proceedings pertaining to administration of estates.

What is a formal probate proceeding?

If the value of an estate is in excess of $100,000, it is the legal method of seeing that the creditors of an estate are paid and that the remaining property is distributed to the entitled persons. This process is carried out by the administrator of the estate under the supervision of the Probate Division of the Superior Court.

What if the estate is valued under $100,000?

Estates with a value of $100,000 or less may be administered by a means called “Summary Administration”. It is designed to permit administration with very little, or in some cases, no court involvement.