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Public Administrator

General information

Losing a loved one is never easy. The San Mateo County Public Administrator is here to help ensure the process after someone passes is managed with dignity, respect, and trust.

There are many decisions to make after someone in your life passes away. The San Mateo County Public Administrator is an option to help manage the process and give you peace of mind during a difficult time.

From day-to-day management of an estate, to liquidating assets, to trust and courts, we can do it all so you do not need to hire an attorney. Download your brochure here

We are here for you, always. Contact us today: (650) 573-3475.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the San Mateo County Public Administrator?

The San Mateo County Public Administrator program is staffed by Deputy Public Administrators within San Mateo County Health. We are here to help your family work through difficult decisions as an unbiased third party, with the one motive of helping your family find closure.

What does the Public Administrator program do?

If your loved one lived in San Mateo County, the Public Administrator is here to help provide closure. We can:

  • Take everything off your plate and manage any creditors, close financial accounts, and clean out residences, if appropriate.
  • Protect property from waste, loss, or theft.
  • Make burial arrangements.
  • Perform an in-depth investigation for any potential assets in your loved ones name.
  • Locate heirs, liquidate assets, and distribute inheritance after all debts have been paid.
  • Deposit all funds in an interest-earning account with the County Treasurer.
  • Pay your loved one’s bills and taxes.
  • Provide you with resources for mortuaries and lawyers as needed.
  • Offer information on anything from funerals to estate management.

Call us today and see if you can benefit from having a Public Administrator manage this process: (650) 573-3475.

When is an estate handled by the Public Administrator?

The Public Administrator may be appointed when:

  • Nominated by an heir or the majority of heirs to act on their stead
  • Named in a will
  • There is no appointed administrator or executor
  • Ordered by the Court
  • There are no known heirs of an estate
  • Named executor fails to act

Once a Public Administrator is appointed, you can generally expect distribution after one year for small non-court estates.

What happens after the Public Administrator takes on a case?

To start, staff will perform an initial investigation to look for all information related to the person who has passed away, including all assets of the person’s estate. This information will be used during the administration of the estate to distribute assets and inheritances after all debts have been paid.

While the estate is in administration, the money in the estate earning interest as the Public Administrator maintains all funds in an FDIC insured interest bearing account.

If an estate is insolvent and there is insufficient cash to pay claims and expenses, the Public Administrator may need to sell real property, securities or jewelry to pay for the debts incurred by the person who passed away.

Once a Public Administrator is appointed, you can generally expect distribution after one year for small non-court estates.

Will the Public Administrator make funeral arrangements?

When possible, staff will work with the family to make the necessary funeral arrangements. At their request or in their absence, a Deputy Public Administrator will assume the responsibility and make the necessary arrangements. Arrangements will be made in accordance with any pre-need plans of the decedent or the ability of the estate to pay.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

It is not necessary to hire an attorney as the Public Administrator’s attorney handles the administration of the estate. If your right to inherit is not clear, you may be advised to retain outside legal counsel to represent you.

How much does the Public Administrator cost?

As mandated by legal code, San Mateo County incurs a fee for taking on a case. The San Mateo County Public Administrator team is compensated similar to other administrators and attorneys.

Fees are based on a percentage basis calculated by the value of the estate. The minimum estate fee is $1,000 for non-court cases.

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000
  • .5% of next $15,000,000
  • Over $25,000,000 is subject to court’s discretion, where a reasonable amount will be determined

The court may also award additional fees for extra work such as selling property, litigation to collect assets, and defending actions against the estate. Fees may require court approval, typically during final accounting.

How is the Public Administrator different than the Private Defender?

The Public Administrator is a program within San Mateo County Health that handles matters for people who have passed away. The Private Defender is a program within the San Mateo County Superior Court to represent people who eligible for counsel provided by public expense. Find more information on the Private Defender program at:

How do I receive a death certificate?

If the person passed away in San Mateo County, you may contact the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk office at (650) 363-4500 or visit 555 County Center, 1st Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063. A copy can also be obtained at the San Mateo County Office of Vital Records located at 1600 W. Hillsdale Blvd. #203, San Mateo, CA 94402.