by John T. Anderson, Chairman
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust
and Probate Law by the State Bar of California,
Board of Legal Specialization
The Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Section of the Long Beach Bar Association met on October 21, 2010. Our speaker was Honorable Judge Beckloff, Supervising Probate Judge for Los Angeles County. He spoke on the following issues:
Difficult time. Hard hiring freeze. Two Probate Attorneys were lost. Mary Hom, Supervising Probate Examiner, retired after 40 years and he position was lost.
There is little or no coverage for sickness or vacation. Sixty percent of Los Angeles County’s Probate related matters are heard in Central (LA). Last year there were 12 furlough days. This caused the calendars to get pushed-off later.
There still is no current court budget, but enough has been put together that the court has plans. The hope is that a budget has prevented the loss of 500 people.
Calendars get compressed and the court does not get to spend much time on any matters. The aging population leads to greater numbers of conservatorships. Decedent’s estates are down, but trust litigation is up. More and more trust filings are taking place.
Trials: In Central, the Probate Court tries its own trials. In the past three years, only one matter was sent to a Civil Courtroom for trial. One conservatorship matter with a demand for jury was also sent to civil (where there is a jury box). Civil Courts are pleased not to hear Probate Court matters. Most parties are also pleased to have a Probate Judicial Officer ruling.
In Long Beach, Judge Paul does much the same thing by just sending the trials to his San Pedro courtroom.
With finances as they are, this is probably how it is going to be. We will not get to hire additional Probate Attorneys.
Efficient Use of Time: Judge Beckloff encouraged the use of Court Call to save time sitting in te backed-up courtroom waiting for your case. But, also realize that in some situations a personal appearance might help get your matter approved because the judge gets to see who you are. Remember etiquette when using Court Call. A toilet flushing over the phone is not appropriate.
Meet and Confer. Even where you do not reach agreement, narrow the issues and be aware of the position of the other party.
The judges really would like to dispose of your case. The dislike having to continue matters.
Keep the opposition and court informed if you are going to be delayed or be on second call.
Judge Beckloff has put out the word that in-person clearing of notes is going to decrease. More and more will be done over the computer. The manpower does not exist.
You cannot walk-in with your supplements the day of a hearing. They really want to clear matter and dispose of your matters. It may get reviewed if it is short to clear shore notes; but a more elaborate matter cannot be cleared in that manner.
Attorney’s Fees: Cal Rules of Court §7.702 Estates: Sets forth what “shall” be set forth for fee requests; §7.776 Trustees Fees: The court “may” consider certain matters that are set out.
The required declaration helps you get your fees and saves the judge looking over the required timesheet hour-by-hour.
Status Reports: Return dates are now set. This helps avoid ten year accountings, because people are kept on calendar deadlines to be accountable. Have P.C. §12201 legend regarding right to account on papers.
Final Accounts: Give the P.C. §9202 required Notices to DHS, FTB, and Victim’s Compensation Fund. They have 120 days to respond. If you neglected to give proper notice, your matter will be continued to give them time to act.
If you are going to trial, prepare. Have adequate copies of exhibits for everyone.
Bond: More situations are coming-up where parties are unable to qualify for bond. Think of alternatives so you do not waste time. Try to pre-qualify your client. Think, will a blocked account really work if you have to go back to get funds released? Will this even qualify for extraordinary compensation? or should you have anticipated this?
Miscellaneous: If a supplement changes the relief sought (really an Amended Petition), new notices should be given. Judge Beckloff says he won’t go for this if it involves drastic changes; he wants a new petition or amended filing rather than numerous supplements.
Filing motions in place of petitions to avoid fees will not work. The filing will be wrong and it won’t be reviewed. Pay your fees.
As matters get pushed-out further for setting, more people file ex-partes. You must show and urgency for an ex-parte.
A request for priority at a hearing will be considered by the court. Make certain it is a matter that should be considered for priority, sit close to the front, and be ready to proceed.
We have worked with Judge Beckloff for an extended period of time to arrange for him to come to Long Beach to speak to us. It was a great effort by him to work this out, and it was a very educational and rewarding meeting for all of us. Judge Beckloff has done a tremendous job in his efforts to make the Probate Courts function well for all of us in very trying times. We thank you Judge Beckloff, and thanks also to Judge Paul for his assistance in arranging for Judge Beckloff to meet with us.
Mark your calendar for the upcoming Long Beach Trust, Estate Planning and Probate Brown Bag Luncheon:
Thursday, April 28, 2011, Michael Trainotti, Esq., will be sharing his thoughts on Estate Tax and Related Tax Law Changes for 2011-2012 (and 2010?) In addition, Judge Paul will give special recognition to those who have so faithfully given of their time and expertise to volunteer for the Pro Per Guardianship Panel.
We meet at the Long Beach Superior Court in Dept. G (on the 5th floor). There is no charge for the meeting.
John T. Anderson, Section Chair
Certified Specialist in Probate, Trust and Estate Planning
by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization