What Happens in Probate if the Estate’s Representative (Administrator) Dies?

Probate litigation can be a long and arduous process depending on the nature of the case and who is involved. There are often multiple stakeholders on any given dispute, and sometimes the court process can outlive even the plaintiff. 

So what do you do when that happens? If an estate’s representative (or administrator) dies before probate litigation is settled, does the case die with them? Short answer, no. 


Here’s a closer look:

California Regulations Around Decedents 

While California civil litigators must be prepared for a variety of potential circumstances and outcomes when it comes to any given probate case, one complication that is more common than you might think is the death of a party. 

If an estate’s representative dies in the midst of an ongoing probate, the process becomes more complicated, but probate keeps moving forward. The statutory schemes of the California Code of Civil Procedure and the California Probate Code guide the process. 

First Step – Find a New Administrator

The first step in the process is to find another party that can administer the first decedent’s estate.  The probate of the original decedent still must move forward, but not anyone can simply step into the shoes of the original administrator. The court has to first approve this person.

Under Probate Code Section 8461, the following are the order of priority to become the administrator a probate matter:

(a) Surviving spouse or domestic partner,

(b) Children,

(c) Grandchildren,

(d) Other issue,

(e) Parents,

(f) Brothers and sisters,

(g) Issue of brothers and sisters,

(h) Grandparents,

(i) Issue of grandparents,

(j) Children of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner,

(k) Other issue of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner,

(l) Other next of kin,

(m) Parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner,

(n) Issue of parents of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner,

(o) Conservator or guardian of the estate acting in that capacity at the time of death who has filed a first account and is not acting as conservator or guardian for any other person,

(p) Public administrator,

(q) Creditors, or

(r) Any other person.

Step Two – Obtain Court Approval

The next step is to seek leave of court to obtain approval to replace an administrator.  This requires drafting a petition to the court to seek the removal and replacement of the administrator.  This can be a complicated process as it requires notifying all parties that have a right to notification within the original decedent’s probate.  Failure to give proper notice can delay the process.

Contact Gokal Law

Do you need help continuing a case in probate court after the administrator has passed away? We’ve got your back. Contact Abbas Gokal of Gokal Law Group, Inc. Our team will diligently investigate your claims, interview witnesses, and give you the support you need to win your case. The sooner you contact us, the more effective we are at getting you the justice you deserve.

Gokal Law Group is a family firm that treats our clients as if they were our own flesh and blood. We fight for our clients as we would our own children, sisters, brothers, and parents. We are our clients’ Warriors, fighting to bring them justice and right the wrongs they have endured.

Each attorney has a specific practice area for which they are tried, tested, and battle-ready. Each has vast years of experience in their practice area, providing them the knowledge, skills, and vision to fight and win. Learn more about Gokal Law Group.

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