The Office of the Orange County Public Administrator serves the public by managing the estates of Orange County residents who died without a will or without the appropriate person(s) willing or able to act as executor. This includes the estates of persons who died and the next of kin cannot be located.
When it appears no one with higher authority pursuant to the Probate Code is acting to handle the decedent’s estate, it is the duty of the Public Administrator to make a diligent search for a will, the names and addresses of next of kin and any documents for the disposition of the decedent’s remains. This includes searching homes, vehicles, safe deposit boxes, hotels, apartments or any other location.
The staff at the Public Administrator’s Office will check various Nationwide Database Services for next of kin, Vital Records, Veteran’s Services, and Internet Search and with other County of Orange Agencies searching for next of kin.
The decedent’s residence and personal belongings will be searched for a will, trust, or any other legal documents looking for next of kin and for the deceased last wishes for disposition of the remains.
Typically the Office of the Public Administrator will receive a referral from the Orange County Sheriff/Coroner reporting the death of an Orange County resident. The referral may also come from a mortuary, hospital or a concerned Orange County resident reporting a death.
The decedent investigation will be assigned to a Deputy Public Administrator Investigation Deputy. This Deputy will review a referral and determine if the deceased is subject to the jurisdiction of the County of Orange. In certain cases the Deputy may be required to the Orange County Sheriff/Coroner Office for the inventory of the deceased personal property that may have a key to the decedent’s residence.
The Public Administrator Deputy may travel to the deceased residence and enter the home with a witness in order to conduct a will search, information about the next of kin or a search for any documents pertaining to a burial or cremation. The decedent’s home will be secured by the Deputy and the Deputy will place Public Administrator seals on the doors.
The decedent’s home is secured with seal placed on the doors in order to protect the estate from waste, loss or theft and ensure the administration of the estate when applicable is administered according to the decedent’s last wishes. Any person(s) who remove or break the Public Administrators seal or the Orange County Sheriff/Coroner seal, maybe subject to prosecution.
In a case where the next of kin have not been located and no one asserts a higher priority for appointment, the Investigation Deputy will prepare a petition to the Orange County Superior Court asking the Court for the Public Administrator to become the Personal Representative of the estate. Upon appointment by the Court, the decedent’s case will be transferred to an Administration Deputy within the Office of the Public Administrator.
The Administration Deputy will be responsible pursuant to court authority to have the entire contents of the deceased home inventoried. The Office of the Public Administrator has an inventory team know as Personal Property Services. This team will complete the inventory with a witness and bring the contents of the home and any type of vehicle into the Public Administrator’s office for storage. These items may be sold at a later time or distributed in kind to heirs of the estate.
Some of the personal property items such as household furniture and furnishings may be sold by auction held at the Office of the Public Administrator. Some of the personal property including vehicles may be sold on an online auction website.
The administration of the decedent’s estate requires giving notice to various agencies reporting the death. This includes state and federal taxes, creditors, and other regulation agencies. These types of notices, creditor claims, financial requests and other case administrative services are processed by the Legal and Administrative Support Team.
If the deceased owns any type of real property, the property is turned over to the Real Property Agent in the Public Administrators office for a market analysis, pending property taxes, liens and loans. This property will be marketed and sold on the Multiple Listing Site.
During the process of the estate administration the Administration Deputy will marshal the assets of the deceased, pay certain creditors and request for state and federal tax completion. The financial portion of the estate will be processed by Financial and Fiduciary Services. This will include the full accounting of the estate assets.