Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
It will probably be necessary to open your brother's estate in CA. just to find out about the bank accounts, pay any debts and distribute the remaining money to the heirs. You might be able to convert the process to a small estate proceeding, but you first have to find out what is actually there. It's too bad that the friend won't at least forward his bank statements so you see what's what. Perhaps a deal can be made there.
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Hello. I can't tell you costs of anything in CA, except to say that filing a lawsuit is very expensive and the friend has no legal duty to provide you information. CA small estate proceeding is basically just an affidavit and it applies to estates with less than $150,000. See this for general information. It is not a recommendation: http://www.ca-trusts.com/smallestates.html Perhaps you can get the bank to at least disclose the accounts based on the affidavit. An attorney in CA might be needed to get this done, for a few hundred dollars. There are any number of forms for the affidavit that you can buy cheaply on line. Good luck.