Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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How To Reopen Probate In California

By Andrew Gold, Esq.

In certain situations you can reopen a California probate by petitioning for subsequent administration.

How Do I Reopen Probate in California?

To reopen a California probate, one can file either:

  1. A Petition for Subsequent Administration under Probate Code Section 12252 or
  2. A Petition for Instructions under Probate Code Section 9611.

Petition for Subsequent Administration Under California Probate Code Section 12252

Section 12252 of the California Probate Code States:

If subsequent administration of an estate is necessary after the personal representative has been discharged because other property is discovered or because it becomes necessary or proper for any other cause, both of the following shall apply:

(a) The court shall appoint as personal representative the person entitled to appointment in the same order as is directed in relation to an original appointment, except that the person who served as personal representative at the time of the order of discharge has priority.

(b) Notice of hearing of the appointment shall be given as provided in Section 1220 to the person who served as personal representative at the time of the order of discharge and to other interested persons. If property has been distributed to the State of California, a copy of any petition for subsequent appointment of a personal representative and the notice of hearing shall be given as provided in Section 1220 to the Controller.

Petition for Instructions Under California Probate Code Section 9611

A Petition for Instructions under section 9611 can be filed if section 12252 does not apply, and only by the personal representative of the estate.

California probate code section 9611 states:

In all cases where no other procedure is provided by statute, upon petition of the personal representative, the court may authorize and instruct the personal representative, or approve and confirm the acts of the personal representative, in the administration, management, investment, disposition, care, protection, operation, or preservation of the estate, or the incurring or payment of costs, fees, or expenses in connection therewith. Section 9613 does not preclude a petition for instructions under this section.

Why Would I Need To Reopen Probate?

Most of the situations where a California probate would need to be reopened will need to be pursued under section 12252 by filing a petition for subsequent administration “because other property is discovered or because it becomes necessary or proper for any other cause…”

In the Petition for Subsequent Administration or to Reopen Probate, make sure to state your grounds for reopening the California probate.  If it is not because new assets have been discovered, then explain why it is necessary or proper to reopen the estate.

1.  New Assets Are Discovered

If new assets owned by Decedent are discovered after the estate has been closed and assets distributed, the probate might need to be reopened to direct distribution of the later-discovered asset.  However, the need to reopen a probate because of newly discovered assets can be avoided if the order for final distribution of the estate addresses distribution of property.

Section 11642 states, in part, that:

Any property acquired or discovered after the court order for final distribution is made shall be distributed in the following manner:

(a) If the order disposes of the property, distribution shall be made in the manner provided in the order. The court may, in an appropriate case, require a supplemental account and make further instructions relating to the property.

If the order for final distribution does not address distribution of property, then you will need to petition to reopen the estate.  Since the discovery of other property is the express ground stated in section 12252 governing subsequent administration, the petition should be relatively straightforward.

 2.  A More Recent Will Is Discovered

Another reasons to reopen probate In California is if a more recent will is discovered that should govern the distribution of the estate.

3.  The Discovery of A Previously Unknown Beneficiary

If the estate has been closed and a new beneficiary is discovered, then the estate needs to be reopened so that the distribution of decedent’s estate can be amended to include the new beneficiary.

4.  Discovery of a Debt or Liability

If a new debt or liability of the decedent is discovered, you might want to consider reopening probate, if doing so could benefit the beneficiaries. If the debt is barred by the statute of limitations for creditor claims, generally you would not seek to reopen the estate.

5.  Breach of Fiduciary Duty

It is also possible that after the estate is closed, you discover that the personal representative committed a breach of fiduciary duty during the administration. Good cause could exist to reopen probate so that the personal representative can be held accountable for the breach and make the beneficiaries whole.

Andrew S. Gold, Esq.

Probate & Trust Litigation

Hourly & Contingency Fees Available

(650) 450-9600