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The following is CA's probate code, with explanations to follow:
8001. Unless good cause for delay is shown, if a person named in a
will as executor fails to petition the court for administration of
within 30 days after the person has knowledge of the death
of the decedent and that the person is named as executor, the person
may be held to have waived the right to appointment as personal
So the executor is the decedent's personal representative for legal purposes, and if the decedent left a will, the executor needs to file it within 30 days of death. Failure to do so can result in sanctions, along with the court removing that person from their role as executor (breach of fiduciary duty).
While there is no registry pre-death for wills in CA, one can determine if there was in fact a will by contacting local attorneys, or making a formal request (preferably by an estate law attorney) requesting a copy of the will.
One can determine if there is a trust by going to the county where the decedent owned property, and looking at the title of the property. If property is held in trust, the deed/title will reflect the name of the trustee and the name of the trust, as opposed to the single name of the decedent.
If there is no will or trust, then the property generally passes via intestate
This means that community property goes to the surviving spouse, with separate property being divided between the spouse and children.
It is possible that property, by virtue of the manner in which it is held, passes by operation of law to the named beneficiary. This type of property includes
•life insurance proceeds
•funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
•securities held in a transfer-on-death account
•payable-on-death bank accounts
•vehicles held by transfer-on-death registration, or
•property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or as community property with the right of survivorship
An attorney that specializes in estate law will be able to help determine if there was a trust, or if the above provisions apply (operation of law).
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