Many clients ask us about the expectation of the probate judge who is hearing their case in Los Angeles County probate court. First, you should know that the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate also called the Probate Court, now has 10 judges and three commissioners assigned to probate in LA County. Each probate judge has different expectations but there are common themes that run among them when it comes to expectations.
What is expected of counsel and probate attorneys?
Probate judges expect civility among lawyers in the estate court system. After all, we do not have an emotional stake in the case. One of the reasons people have lawyers is that the attorney can help defuse the emotional undertones of the case. Also, a probate attorney is expected to be respectful of the probate judge’s requests and be able to quickly and efficiently provide the documents requested by the court.
Our probate lawyer, Mina Sirkin, attended the View From the Bench Conference in 2021 and here are some notes from the event:
Judge Brenda Penny presented the Arthur K. Marshall award to Carmen Alberio who has been a very loved probate attorney at the court for decades.
Judge Wada, Comm. Mark Priver and Comm. Scott will be handling settlement conferences. Settlement Conferences are part of the probate litigation practice in Los Angeles and often lead to settlements before trial.
A a prior conference in 2019, Judge Cowan had noted that there has been a 16% increase in probate department filings over the few years and the Probate Department in Los Angeles is overworked.
Probate Notes. There is a new probate notes software. Probate notes history of old notes can be found in the LaCourtConnect subscription plan. Probate orders are expected in about 30 days. Dean Silliman is to be contacted if an order is lost or delayed after 30 days. Judge Penny acknowledged that they are catching up on orders and working on processing diligently. Attorneys should not be thrown off by multiple order rejections as they are part of the process of shifting systems.
Certain paper orders may be signed in court for temporary conservatorship and temporary guardianship cases. Each Judge can give instructions regarding emergency conservatorship orders. Litigants should submit the Proposed Order for Temporary Conservatorship and ask for a signature from the bench. But generally, everything must be submitted electronically.
Appointment of Referees. This soon will be done using the Judicial Council form, not the LASC form. Court Probate Referees are specialized appraisers for probate cases. Probate court is working on getting these assignments automated. If your referee has retired, you may submit a local form for the appointment of a successor referee Form XLIT008. See the local probate forms on the court’s website. Also, if you missed the hearing because your case was RFA, you can use the following local form to get a referee appointed: PRO001.
MSC Briefs. Attorneys should email the MSC Brief to SMCProbateMSC@lacourt.org and follow the CRC Rule 3.1380 and serve it as required. Mandatory settlement conferences are being held by video and you must be sure that your client and you use the same method for attendance. The settlement conference statement must comply with any additional requirement imposed by local rule.
Ex parte Hearings. Lawyers should state on the Ex Parte Application whether the matter requires a hearing or if it is a drop-off. As of April 2020, until announced further, that unless they are in a temporary conservatorship or temporary guardianship, will not have an in-person hearing unless the court sets it for a hearing. They are handled by the Court staff and unless the Court sets it after the review, the process is done just on paper.
Correcting a minute order. Probate lawyers should visit the department and speak to the Judicial Assistant about it.
Orders taking too long? The Estate Court is aware of this problem. Contact Dean Silliman, Supervising Probate Attorney. Anaruth Gonzales of the Probate Attorneys gave statistics.
CAC Fees: Anyone can object to any fees. The Court is watching the CAC fees.
Petitions for fees should be specific. Be specific about what was done. Use both narrative and itemized billing.
Bonds. Judge Penny discussed bonds and that the court prefers bonds over waivers which are completing discretionary. The minimum bond is $20,000. Having a bond in place helps get the case closed. Bonds are protective indemnity contracts required in probate, conservatorship and guardianships, and when a change is made to a trustee who was not named in the trust.
Relating cases that are both in Probate and in Civil. Lawyers should file a Notice of Related Case in both cases and in Department 1, Fifth Floor. This is essential. The decision is made by Judge Jessner in Department 1. Probate and Family Law – not so easy to do. If two cases are in Probate, just mention it in papers or at a hearing, no Notice of Related Case need be filed. Make the judge in probate aware of the issue to get the best results.
Emails to Dean Silliman and other probate attorneys. Dean gets 100 per day. Just because you don’t get a response does not mean they are not aware of your email. They are very busy.
Trial tips. Probate Judges want your story. Tell a story as if it were a jury trial. Make your questions focused and get to the point. Get the questions done fast and move on. Do not use the trial as a deposition. Trial estimates must be reasonable. Get the trial done quickly if possible. You get a day or two of hearings and then you get continued 4 months.
Supplements in response to probate notes. Get these in as soon as possible. If it is filed within 24 hours of the hearing, the judge will not likely to see it.
Continuances requested in 2021: You can request a continuance from the probate attorney in the traditional way of emailing the probate attorney assigned to your case. You can still get a continuance by court call or by a personal appearance.
Who are the current probate judges in Los Angeles Stanley Mosk Probate Court?
Here is a current list of Probate Judges in Los Angeles Downtown Superior Court- Central Probate Court as of April 4, 2021:
Judge Department Floor Telephone
Judge Gus May- Department 2D – Sixth Floor – 213-633-1023
Judge Paul Suzuki – Department 3 – Second Floor – 213-633-0253
Judge Brenda Penny- Department 4 – Second Floor – 213-633-0254
Judge Robert Wada – Department 4 – Second Floor – 213-633-0254
Judge Michael Small – Department 5 – Second Floor – 213-633-0245
Judge Clifford Klein – Department 9 – Second Floor – 213-633-0259
Judge Ana Maria Luna – Department 11 – Second Floor – 213-633-0251
Judge Lee Bogdanoff – Department 29 – Second Floor – 213-633-0249
Judge Deborah Christian- Department 44 -Third Floor – 213-628-7744
Judge Daniel Juarez – Department 67 – Sixth Floor – 213-633-1067
Judge Jonathan Rosenbloom – Department 79 – Sixth Floor- 213-633-1079
Comm. Mark Priver – Department 5 / MSC Judge
Judge Robert Wada – Dept. 99/ Dept 4 and MSC Judge
Status of Video Appearances in the Los Angeles Probate Court via LaCourtConnect: As of June 22, 2020, Probate practitioners and litigants are authorized to appear by phone or by video conference. You can find the LaCourtConnect link here to arrange a video or call conference: https://www.lacourt.org/lacc/
Have questions about the court process, probate procedures, or the Probate Judges in the Los Angeles Probate Court? Call Mina Sirkin, Probate and Trust Attorney at 818.340.4479 or email: Info@Sirkinlaw.com.