Deceased County Resident Estate Administration

Who is eligible?

The Public Administrator investigates and may administer the estates of San Luis Obispo County residents who die under the following circumstances:

  • With no next of kin.
  • With no appropriate person willing or able to act as administrator.
  • When appointed by the court because of an extraordinary situation.

Is there a charge for this service?

Basic Fees for services of the Public Administrator are set by California Probate Code:

Minimum fee $1,000
4% of the first $100,000
3% of the next $100,000
2% of the next $800,000
1% on anything over $1 million

When and where is this service offered?

This service is available throughout the year during regular business hours except during scheduled holidays.

Location, directions and hours of operation

Click on location name to show hours of operation, directions and phone information

Monday - Friday 8-5

1055 Monterey Street Suite D290
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408

Tel: (805) 781-5835

Fax: (805) 781-1142


The Public Administrator is a legally mandated office of County government for every county in California. The San Luis Obispo Public Administrator serves in a fiduciary capacity to distribute the assets of estates of County residents who have passed away when no personal representative is appointed as administrator. The Public Administrator only gets involved as a last resort measure when there is no one else with higher authority to act.

In cases where there is no named executor to carry out the provisions of a will, the California Probate Code Section 8461 provides that,

"a person in the following relation to the decedent is entitled to appointment as administrator in the following order of priority:"

a. Surviving spouse or domestic partner as defined in Section 37

b. Children
c. Grandchildren
d. Other issue
e. Parents
f. Brothers and sisters
g. Issue of brothers and sisters
h. Grandparents
i. Issue of grandparents
j. Children of predeceased spouse or domestic partner
k. Other issue of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
l. Other next of kin
m. Parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
n. Issue of parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner
o. Conservator or guardian
p. Public Administrator
q. Creditors
r. Any other person.
If no person of higher ranking priority is willing and able, the PA is available to administer the decedent's estate.
An individual has no power to administer an estate until that person is appointed Personal Representative by the court. Appointment as Personal Representative becomes effective when the person appointed is issued Letters of Administration.

An estate is any asset owned by an individual that has value. It may consist of cash or other personal property. An estate may or may not have real property. Whatever the value of a decedent's estate, it must be properly distributed pursuant to the provisions of the California Probate Code.

California Probate Code Section 7600 states that if a public official or employee knows of property of a decedent that is subject to loss, injury, waste, or misappropriation and that should be in the possession or control of the Public Administrator, the officer or employee shall inform the Public Administrator. In addition, if a person dies in a hospital, convalescent hospital, or board and care facility without known next of kin, the person in charge of the hospital or facility shall give immediate notice of that fact to the Public Administrator of the county in which the hospital or facility is located. It is also the duty of a funeral director to notify the Public Administrator of the death of a person with no known next of kin.

Failure to notify the Public Administrator makes the facility liable for losses to the estate that occur as a result.

Notification of the Public Administrator can also be made by any member of the community upon the death of an individual when there is no next of kin acting to handle the affairs of the estate or the property of an estate is subject to loss, injury, waste, or misappropriation.

To make a referral, please complete the Public Administrator Referral Form.

A. Location of Beneficiaries and Heirs

When it appears that no one with a higher authority is acting to handle the decedent's estate, it is the duty of the Public Administrator to make a diligent search for a will and the names and addresses of heirs. If a will is found, the named executor is notified.

If no will is found, then the Public Administrator will attempt to contact heirs of the decedent to determine if they are willing or able to handle the estate. If there are no heirs or the heirs are unable to act, the Public Administrator may handle the disposition of the estate.

B. Possession of Assets

If no personal representative has been appointed, the Public Administrator has the responsibility to take prompt possession or control of the property of a decedent in the county that is subject to loss, injury, waste, or misappropriation, or that the court orders into the possession or control of the Public Administrator. All assets of a decedent's estate are brought under the control of the Public Administrator when a determination is made that the Public Administrator will handle the estate.

C. Payment of Debts

The Public Administrator tries to ascertain the debts of each estate and notify all known creditors. Creditor's Claims are sent out and a minimum of four months is allowed for creditors to return their claim against the estate before the estate can be closed.

D. Sale of Personal and Real Property

The San Luis Obispo County Public Administrator may need to liquidate property from various estates in order to pay the debts of those estates and make proper distribution. The personal property that is collected is usually sold. The sales are open to the general public and anyone may participate in the purchase of estate items.

For more information about the sales you may contact the Public Administrator's office.

E. Distribution of Assets

The Public Administrator must attempt to distribute the assets of an estate to those who are entitled to inherit them. When there is no will, the proper order of those persons who are entitled to inherit an estate's assets is listed in the California Probate Code. However, determining who is entitled to inherit what and locating those individuals can be very time consuming.

In some cases those entitled to inherit have passed away. In other cases there may be no current address for heirs or beneficiaries of a will among the decedent's possessions. These problems can drastically slow down the time of distribution. The provisions of some wills can be difficult to read or carry out.