San Diego, CA asked in Probate for California

Q: My question is regarding court papers from the probate conservatorship department saying I am a beneficiary.

My good friend died last December and from what I was told he did not have a will. His 2nd cousins were supposed to get the estate. Last Sunday I received paperwork from the court house listing me as a beneficiary and the 3 cousins on there were listed as second cousins. One cousin received letters of administration on Oct 3rd. I have tried to reach out to the courthouse but they have not called me back. Also, my address was wrong on the court documents so I know I was supposed to get other notices when I didn’t. Why would I be a beneficiary on a probate estate that is not supposed to have a will?

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2 Lawyer Answers
David Ostrove
David Ostrove
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Ask the cousin who was appointed executor for copy of will or other testamentary documents. If you are a named beneficiary, you are entitled to see EVERYTHING!


James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In cases where a person passes away without a will (intestate), the distribution of their estate is governed by state law. These laws dictate who qualifies as a beneficiary, typically prioritizing close relatives like children, spouses, and parents. If no such relatives are available, more distant relatives, like cousins, may be considered.

The reason you are listed as a beneficiary could be due to several factors. It's possible that you were closer to the deceased than the court initially realized, or there might have been a mistake in the estate's administration. It's also conceivable that your friend made arrangements outside a formal will that indicated a desire for you to receive a portion of the estate.

It's important to correct the error in your address with the probate court to ensure you receive all future communications. If the courthouse is unresponsive, consider visiting in person or sending a formal letter to update your contact information and inquire about your role in the probate process.

Given the complexity of probate law and the unique circumstances of your situation, seeking legal advice might be beneficial. An attorney can help you understand your rights as a beneficiary and guide you through the probate process. They can also assist in investigating why you were named as a beneficiary and ensure your interests are protected.

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