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Explaining estate jurisdiction

Whenever someone living in or with ties to Woodland Hills passes away, those close to him or her typically begin to prepare for the process of administering his or her estate. Aside from ensuring that a personal representative has been named to handle the matter, one of the first things to be considered is which probate court would have jurisdiction over the case.

Section 7051 of the California Probate Code says for people who were living in the state when they died, the county in which they were domiciled will have jurisdiction over their estate. Jurisdiction for those not living in the state at the time of their deaths is determined in one of two ways: if the decedent died in a county where estate property was located, jurisdiction belongs to that county. If he or she had no property in the county in which he or she died, jurisdiction is given to the county in which the estate property is located. If there is estate property in multiple counties, jurisdiction goes to the county in which a petition for administration is first filed.

There may be cases where the federal courts are drawn into estate matters. Federal court involvement in estate jurisdiction is prohibited by the probate exception, which reserves authority over probate to state courts. A 2006 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court limited the probate exception to apply only in the following cases:

  •          The probating or annulling of a will
  •          The direct administration of a decedent’s estate
  •          The exercise of jurisdiction over property already in the custody of a state probate court

Cases where federal courts may become involved in estate administration may include those where a party to an estate has filed for bankruptcy in federal court.