Thanks for the additional information.
California has no time limit to open an estate. And, not all property is considered part of a person's estate.
You need to speak to the person who was named executor of the estate and ask why an estate was never opened. You, as an "interested party" (beneficiary) have the right to know why you never received your share of the estate. There may be a valid reason. For example, your monetary portion may have been eaten up by creditors, taxes, etc. If you were left specific items, if the items no longer exist, then you cannot inherit them. For example, you were left a particular diamond ring. Prior to the death of the testator, s/he sold it. Therefore, it no longer exists and you cannot inherit another diamond ring in its place.
However, if you believe that there is money/property that should have been disbursed to you, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in probate law. Sometimes, an initial consultation is free. You, as an "interested party" ( a beneficiary) may be able to prepare necessary documents to open the estate.
If the executor didn't do hs/her job, the court may lower or deny compensation and can replace the personal representative with someone else. The personal representative may even have to pay for any damages s/he or she caused.
A personal representative may be held liable for:
- improperly managing the assets of the estate,
- failing to collect claims and money due the estate,
- overpaying creditors,
- selling an asset without the authority to do so, or at an inappropriate price,
- not filing tax returns on time,
- distributing property to the wrong beneficiaries, or
- distributing property to beneficiaries before all creditors have been paid, etc.
Once the estate is opened, the judge may subpoena the Representative/Executor for testimony and documents as to why the estate was never opened, and what happened to the assets.
If the Executor/Representative still has the assets, or assets equal in value, it will be ordered by the judge that those assets be put back into probate, and distributed accordingly. If the assets are no longer there, or creditors were not paid, the executor may be subject to damages as set forth above.
Below is a link to a California Probate Court website that answers frequently asked questions on how to probate an estate.
Again, you may wish to consult a probate lawyer, discuss your options and decide how you should proceed.
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