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What happens when you can't locate a rightful heir. In this situation, a sister passed away, and her heirs are her brother and

San Diego, CA |

son. The son has a drug problem, doesn't hold down a job, or have a cell phone and is always on the go. We need him to sign off on some documents so the brother can get the sister's car title and lien release forwarded to him. He paid off the vehicle, and the son has no issue we are sure of him taking the vehicle since he has no money to pay for it. The sister had no estate, she only owned this vehicle. She had no will and nothing passed into probate. What would one do in this situation?

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Attorney answers 4


If nothing passed into probate I assume she had a revocable trust. If she did not, then probate in CA is required for all property.

If you cannot locate him, you can obtain court permission to provide notice by periodical - and put an ad in the local paper at the location where he was believed to reside last. This will be sufficient for service of process, and you can then proceed to divide the assets properly by intestate succession or by the terms of the trust.

Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC


When the decedent's estate is $150K or less in value, California does not require you to use the probate court. You can use a simplified procedure to transfer the estate property to the beneficiaries without a court order. For estates with personal property only, like the vehicle,you can use an affidavit that complies with California Probate Code Section 13100 to acquire the property. You give the holder of the property the affidavit along with a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate. At least 40 days must have passed since the decedent's death before this procedure can be used. Here is a link to the affidavit -

You can list son on #7.
Brother can complete #8

Mr.Scalise offers a FREE 30 minute phone consultation; he may be reached at 805-244-6850 or by email ( My responses to questions posted here intended as helpful legal information not legal advice. The information I post does not create an attorney-client relationship. Mr. Scalise is licensed to practice law in California. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state, and retain him/her. Mr. Scalise provides “unbundled” services for specific assistance with a specific issue.O work with clients throughout California.


I am sorry you are having such a tough time transferring this car. For such a small asset you are up against a lot of issues that really have no simple answers. If you would like to give me a call I can give you some suggestions.


I agree with my colleagues, but your situation sounds very strange. How can her heirs be her brother and son? What makes the brother an heir at all, if there is a son? If the son disclaims any interest in the estate, the brother might become an heir. But that is the son's decision to make, and it does not sound like he is likely to do that.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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