Trusts and Estates

Estate of Flores

Cite as B320383
Filed January 2, 2024
Second District, Div. Three

By Michelle Barnett Batista
Aaron, Riechert, Carpol & Riffle, APC

Headnote:  Petition to Determine Entitlement to Distribution of Estate – Rights of Assignee

Summary:  Party did not forfeit or waive rights as an assignee by failing to assert those rights in proceeding to determine entitlement to distribution of estate.    

An heir-hunter firm informed Donald that he was the heir of a nephew that he never knew existed.  Believing the interest to be worthless, Donald assigned any rights he might have in the estate to his brother, John.  John filed a petition for determination of entitlement to distribution under Probate Code section 11700, and obtained a determination that he and Donald were each entitled to a 50 percent share of the estate.  The administrator sought a final distribution order that would take into account Donald’s assignment of his rights to John.  Donald objected, claiming that the order determining entitlement to distribution was binding and conclusive as to the distribution of the estate.  The trial court granted the administrator’s petition and Donald appealed.

The appellate court affirmed.  Neither case law nor the statute indicates that an assignee’s failure to seek enforcement of the heir’s assignment in a section 11700 proceeding waives the assignee’s rights under the assignment or precludes the probate court from subsequently giving effect to the assignment in a final distribution order.  Here, John’s rights as an assignee were not raised or litigated in the proceeding, which determined only the identity of decedent’s heirs and their respective shares of the estate.  Further, John did not forfeit or waive his rights as an assignee by failing to file a statement of interest.  Other than preventing an interested person from participating further in the proceedings, the failure to file a statement of interest does not otherwise affect that person’s interest in the estate.

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