In Kern County, the Sheriff is elected to serve as the Sheriff-Coroner-Public Administrator with each role having distinct authorities and functions.
The Public Administrator protects and administers the estates of people who pass away without a Will, “intestate”, or when no one with a higher priority to act is willing or able to act as administrator. The Superior Court may also appoint the Public Administrator when an estate is contested or assets may be at risk. The Public Administrator serves in a fiduciary capacity and must diligently safeguard the decedent’s property from waste, loss, or theft.
The Public Administrator is a legally mandated function of county government. The powers and responsibilities of the Public Administrator are set forth primarily in the California Probate Code § 7600 et seq. The Public Administrator is charged with investigating and administering estates and has the same duties and responsibilities as private administrators, which include:
- Protect the decedent’s property from waste, loss, or theft
- Make appropriate final disposition arrangements
- Locate heirs and beneficiaries of the estate
- Conduct thorough investigations to discover and marshal all assets
- Pay the decedent’s bills and taxes
- Maintain a fully documented record to ensure every asset is accounted for and distributed appropriately
The Public Administrator may be notified of estates requiring administrative services from the Coroner’s Office, Public Guardian’s Office, public employees, hospitals, mortuaries, or concerned citizens, when there is a death and no known next of kin. Upon notification, the Public Administrator is responsible to conduct a thorough search for next of kin, locate a Will, and safeguard all assets of an estate.
The Public Administrator’s Section is dedicated to thoroughly investigate referrals, judiciously safeguard estate assets, direct the sale of estate properties, and comprehensively account for all actions taken while acting as the Administrator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of the Stages of Administration
Indigent Burial and County Cremation Program