Question:

Dear Sir:  Father did not own any property and did not have a will. Was divorced before death from my mother. Never remarried. My mother believes I was named the executor during the divorce proceedings but I was never notified. My father got very sick soon after the divorce and died. Have one brother who was not notified of being the executor. Items left to us have a value of maybe $2500, but legally need an executor to transfer ownership to a properly licensed person.  How do I get the property?

Answer:

I’m sorry for your loss.  How this situation is handled will depend on the state your father was living in at the time of his passing.  All states have some form of small estates administration that will permit you to access small amounts of property with some form of affidavit procedure, rather than a formal probate. With that affidavit, it is not necessary to look for a ruling a divorce proceeding – you simply notify the account holder that your father has passed away, that you and your brother are the legal heirs under the intestacy law of that state, that no other claimant exists with a better claim, and that no probate proceeding is anticipated. Attach a copy of the death certificate and you should be given the property.

In California, this is handled under Probate Code Sections 13100 et seq.  That being said: each state’s requirements for the small estates administration procedure is slightly different, so you’ll want to consult a probate attorney in the proper state.