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Sheriff's Office

Posted on: November 30, 2020

California DOJ concludes Public Administrator investigation

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The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has been notified that the California Department of Justice has concluded its review of the past Public Administrator’s handling of estate property in Humboldt County and will not pursue criminal charges in the matter.

We would like to thank the Department of Justice for their thorough review of this case and recognition of the steps the Sheriff’s Office has taken to increase controls and accountability.

We recognize the errors that were made in the past handling of Public Administrator cases and have taken the following actions to ensure that the Public Administrator division of our organization adheres to the California Probate Code and the Government Code.

  • We have updated our Public Administrator policy and procedures manual, with employees closely adhering to this policy.
  • As part of our new policy, the Coroner-Sergeant does a weekly review of all open Public Administrator cases to ensure accuracy.
  • This policy also requires receipts have complete details including information identifying all parties and the estate associated, a Public Administrator case number and a complete description of the property.
  • All deputy coroners and Public Administrator staff are members of the California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators, and are staying up to date on the education/training requirements set forth by the law. 

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is committed to carrying out our responsibilities to the community ethically and with accountability. We are constantly striving for progress and continue to review our policies and procedures as we work toward our mission to protect an serve our community and earn the public’s trust through compassion and accountability.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR DIVISION

What is The Public Administrator?

The Public Administrator serves in a fiduciary capacity to provide professional estate management services to county residents who die without someone willing or able to handle their affairs. The powers of the Public Administrator are mandated by the Probate Code of the State of California.

When is an estate handled by the Public Administrator?

The Public Administrator may be appointed under the following circumstances: 

  • When no executor or administrator has been appointed and the property is at risk of waste, loss or misappropriation. 
  • When appointed by the Court. 
  • When an heir nominates the Public Administrator or the Will names the Public Administrator as Executor. 
  • When there are no known heirs of the estate. 
  • For an heir who resides outside of the State of California and requests the Public Administrator. 
  • When the named Executor fails to act on a Formal Probate and no other person has a preferred right. 
  • In situations where the person with priority to act is not a resident of the United States. 

Categories of Estates handled by the Public Administrator 

  • Indigent Estates 
    • These are estates without sufficient funds for disposition of the decedent remains and no heirs to take care of disposition arrangements. In situations where the assets of an estate are not sufficient to pay for disposition, the law requires disposition by the relatives of the decedent. If there are no relatives or other persons to act, the County assumes that responsibility. 
  • Summary Estates 
    • Estates not exceeding $50,000.00 in value. The Public Administrator may act without court authorization to marshal and distribute the assets of these estates pursuant to the Probate Code. 
    • Estates valued at $50,000.01 to $150,000.00. The Public Administrator may act after an ex parte application seeking authority to summarily dispose of a small estate is approved by the court. 
  • Probated Estates 
    • These are estates over $150,000.00 in value. An estate of this size is handled by the Public Administrator under the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. The proceeding commences from the first filing of a petition and appointment of the Public Administrator. Other procedures subject to court approval include proving a will, sale of property, paying taxes and distribution of assets. An accounting is completed and submitted to the court to show what was done before the Public Administrator is discharged. 

What is the overall objective of the administration of an estate?

The overall objective of the administration of an estate is to:

  • Collect a decedent’s assets (including partially owned assets)
  • Determine and pay the debts, expenses, and taxes
  • Distribute the balance of the assets to the persons (sometimes trusts) entitled to them.

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