When a beneficiary or heir is either left out of a probate petition or believes they should be entitled to receive some benefit from an estate, they can file a Petition for Determination of Descent and request that the court issue an order that they are entitled to receive a distribution from the estate.
California Probate Code § 11700 allows any person claiming to be a beneficiary or otherwise entitled to distribution of a share of an estate as an heir to file a Petition for Determination of Descent, also known as a Petition for Determination of Distribution Rights. In essence, this legal filing asks the probate court to determine who is entitled to receive what from an estate.
What Is a Determination of Descent?
Under Probate Code § 11700, the personal representative or any person claiming to be a beneficiary or otherwise entitled to distribution of a share of the estate – i.e. an heir – can file a Petition for Determination of Distribution Rights at any time after letters of administration are first issued to a personal representative and before an order for final distribution is made. In other words, this petition must be filed after the estate is opened but before it is closed – i.e. while the estate is still open and being administered.
Once a petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing. Any interested person can file a written statement in support of or opposition to the petition before or at the hearing. If a person fails timely to respond to the petition they likely will not be allowed to participate in the proceeding but likely will be legally bound by the court’s decision. If you receive a Petition for Determination of Distribution Rights or Descent you should consult a probate litigation attorney immediately who can help guide you about any steps to protect your inheritance.
At the hearing, the court will consider the petition and any responses and objections submitted by other interested parties. The court will issue an order either granting or denying the petition, which will guide the executor about who the persons are who are entitled to distribution.
What Is a Petition for Final Distribution?
A Petition for Final Distribution is a legal document that the personal representative files to officially close an estate. When this petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing where the personal representative must provide detailed information about the condition of the estate, how the estate assets were used, and how the estate assets will be distributed.
The judge will review this final accounting to confirm that all the legal requirements have been met. If the judge determines that the estate has been administered appropriately, the court will issue an order for final distribution and close the estate. Once an order for final distribution is entered, the personal representative can immediately distribute the property in the estate to the persons entitled to distribution as ordered by the court.
It’s important to note that once an order for final distribution has been issued, unless an appeal is filed, interested parties lose the right to challenge how the estate has been administered or how it’s going to be distributed. This includes the ability to file a Petition for Determination of Distribution Rights.
If you believe you have been wrongfully excluded from probate after a loved one’s death, you should immediately discuss your situation with a probate litigation attorney. You need to act as fast as possible, because the time you have to file a Petition for Determination of Descent or otherwise participate in the probate process is limited. An experienced probate lawyer can help you quickly identify the best course of action you can take to protect your inheritance rights.
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About RMO, LLP
RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.