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Superior Court of California - County of San Diego: Probate: Probate FAQ: Estate FAQ

Wills & Estates Frequently Asked Questions

  1. My relative died. Where can I find their will?
  2. What is the process for viewing my relative's will?
  3. How do I get a certified copy of the death certificate?
  4. Do I have to hire an attorney to assist with the probate?
  5. Who is allowed to act as a personal representative?
  6. Who cannot act as a personal representative?


1. My relative died.  Where can I find their will?

You can check the Case Search on the San Diego Superior Court Website to see if a will was deposited. Search by the deceased person's name. If there are no results, the decedent may have kept the will in a safe deposit box in her bank.

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2. What is the process for viewing my relative's will?

Original wills are not available to view; however, with a Certified Death Certificate or an Informational Certified Death Certificate you can obtain a copy of the will by going to the probate department and requesting a copy. If you are out of state, you may request a copy by mail by submitting the death certificate, sufficient funds to cover the copy charge ($.50 per page), and a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the copy of the will and the death certificate.

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3. How do I get a certified copy of the death certificate?

Contact the County Recorder's Office in the county where the decedent died.

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4. Do I have to hire an attorney to assist with the probate?

No, but if the estate is large or appears to be complicated, it may be a good idea. An attorney can ensure that you file all the correct documents and meet all required deadlines.

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5. Who is allowed to act as a personal representative?

Any interested person can act as personal representative. A personal representative does not have to be a financial expert. The personal representative should have good organizational skills and be able to keep track of details. It is preferable if he or she lives nearby and is familiar with the decedent's finances. This makes it easier to do tasks and find important records.

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6. Who cannot act as a personal representative?

A minor, someone under a conservatorship, a non-resident of the U.S. (unless that person was named executor in the will), a surviving business partner of the decedent if an interested party objects (unless named as executor in the will).

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