Sample Southern California Probate Records
A variety of useful information can be found in probate files.
There are many different documents in a typical probate file, including the
Petition for Probate, or Petition for letters of
Administration. If the decedent had a Last Will and Testament (Will),
then the will be probated, and the probate process will begin with the
Executor of the will petitioning the court to admit the will to probate
("petition for probate"). If the decedent did not have a will, then
the Administrator of the estate will petition the court for permission to
administer the estate ("petition for letters of administration"). In
each case, the petition will contain a statement of when and where the
decedent died; a brief summary of the value of the estate; a list of the
"heirs at law," or people entitled to inherit in the absence of a will; and
in the case of a will, a list of the people named in the will, along with a
copy of the will.
Last Will and Testament. A will typically contains a
list of people who are to receive something from the estate, and what they
are to receive. It may also contain some information about the
decedent's marital status, children, etc. Some wills are more detailed than
Inventory of the estate, detailing exactly what assets the
estate has and their total value.
Various accounts of the Executor or Administrator of the
estate, describing what actions have been taken to date. The accounts
will usually include information on the estate's income and expenses; any
disposition of the estate's property; and any description of problems that
have arisen during the probate process, and the resolution to those
Order for Distribution, outlining the final distribution of
the estate's assets to the various heirs.
Depending on the complexity of the estate, there may be
many other documents included.
Samples of some of the typical documents found in probate files
are listed below.
Letters of Administration (Estate of Juan Manuel Talimantes, 1855).
This is a simple petition for letters of administration from the early
years of Los Angeles County. Despite its age and handwritten format,
it still contains all of the basic provisions of a petition for an estate:
a statement of the time and place of death, and a statement of the known
heirs and their whereabouts.
Probate of Will (Estate of Margaret Mae Brier, 1981). This is
a more modern and formal Petition for Probate of Will. The form here
is typical of that used throughout California, with some modifications over
the years. In addition to stating the date and place of death, it
provides an estimate of the value of the estate, and then lists the known
heirs, devisees and legatees. The petition is often accompanied by
several attachments, including a copy of the will.
Last Will and Testament of Samuel Levitz. This basic will
illustrates some of the information that can be found in such documents.
It lists the name of the decedent's wife, as well as his children from a
previous marriage, also listing his previous wife's name. It also
mentions his wife's son by name.