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  • Office of the Public Administrator

    The Office of the Public Administrator investigates and may administer the estates of persons who are residents of 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 Probate Code.

    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.


  • Notification of Death

    The Public Administrator may be notified of a death by various sources, including:

    • Coroner's Office
    • Funeral homes
    • Nursing homes
    • Hospitals
    • Family members
    • Private citizens (whenever a death occurs and next of kin cannot be immediately located)

    Investigation

    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.

    During the investigation phase, the Public Administrator searches for next of kin, legal documents such as a trust or will, 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.

    Administration of Estate

    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.


  • Statutory Fee

    California law provides a statutory fee for the administrator of an estate. The Public Administrator is allowed the same compensation as private administrators. The allowable fees are based on the value of the estate, computed as follows:

    • 4% of the first $100,000
    • 3% of the next $100,000
    • 2% of the next $800,000
    • 1% of the next $9,000,000

    The Probate Code allows for a minimum fee of $1,000 in smaller estates, paid from estate assets only.

    The law also provides for statutory attorney's fees based on the same fee schedule as that of the administrator.


  • Interment of Indigents

    Under some circumstances, the Public Administrator may also arrange for the interment of indigents.

    If the assets of an estate are not sufficient to pay for disposition, the law requires disposition by the next of kin of the decedent. If there are no next of kin, the County may assume that responsibility. Before the County incurs the cost of cremation, an investigation is conducted to determine that the decedent is truly indigent and that there are no known next of kin.


  • Referral Process

    Complete the Contra Costa County Public Administrator Online Referral Form and submit electronically.

    Please note: The referent must demonstrate due diligence in locating next of kin. Diligent search examples include:

    • Review records for visitors, responsible parties, payees and friends and attempt to contact.
    • Review records from prior facility or placement. If none are available, attempt to get them.
    • Contact regular physician if admitting physician has not functioned as the primary care physician in the past.
    • Call any known payee, social worker, home health agency or therapist.
    • Review personal effects for possible relative references and attempt to contact.

    Document all of your contacts on the referral form. Submit additional documentation if necessary. Reference who was contacted, when they were contacted and what they said. Be sure to include any documented statements by the decedent regarding relatives or lack thereof.

    The referent must submit any relevant documents in support of the referral. Such documents may include: intake or admissions forms, inventory of personal items and/or contact list.


  • Frequently Asked Questions

    The following are some of the questions most frequently asked about the Public Administrator's functions and answers to those questions.

    What role does the beneficiary play when the Public Administrator handles an estate?
    The beneficiary is kept advised via legal notices of the location, date and purpose of hearings. The beneficiary may receive notices regarding sales of property and other pertinent legal matters. It is not necessary to attend these hearings, simply an option.
    Does the beneficiary receive regular reports on the progress of the estate?
    The Public Administrator's goal is to work in the best interest of the estate, advance the case to the earliest distribution and close the estate within time constraints permitted by the Court. With this in mind, it is our first obligation to devote our efforts to the actual administration of the estate.

    The Public Administrator's office may contact you to clarify disposition of memorabilia (photos, keepsakes), degree of kindred and the like. However, no routine status reports are issued except to the Court.
    How much does the Public Administrator charge for its services?
    California law provides a statutory fee for the administrator of an estate. The Public Administrator is allowed the same compensation as private administrators. The allowable fees are based on the value of the estate, computed as follows:
    • 4% of the first $100,000
    • 3% of the next $100,000
    • 2% of the next $800,000
    • 1% of the next $9,000,000
    • The Probate Code allows a minimum fee of $1,000 in smaller estates, paid from estate assets only.
    • The law also provides for statutory attorney's fees based on the same fee schedule as that of the administrator.
    How does the Public Administrator sell estate property?
    The Public Administrator sells real property through licensed real estate agents. All sales are subject to confirmation by the Probate Court.

    Items such as household furniture and furnishings belonging to the estate are sold through estate liquidators. Vehicles are sold on an online government surplus auction system, www.publicsurplus.com.
    Can anyone bid on real property?
    Yes. However, buyers of real property must post a 10% minimum deposit by cash or certified check with their bid.
    How long does it take for the estate to be distributed to the beneficiaries?
    The length of time for case investigation, administration of the estate and distribution of assets typically ranges from 12 months (an all cash estate) to 18-24 months (an estate with bank accounts, stocks and real property). Beneficiaries are cautioned not to plan their financial affairs upon the expectation of receiving a distribution of a certain amount at a specific time.

  • Office of the Public Administrator


    Anna M. Roth, R.N., M.S., M.P.H.
    Public Administrator

    Amy Elstermeyer, J.D., LL.M.
    Chief Deputy Public Administrator

    Mailing Address
    P.O. Box 2276
    Martinez, CA 94553

    Contact Information
    Phone: 925-313-7990
    Fax: 925-646-1272
    Email: PublicAdministrator@hsd.cccounty.us