Understanding Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes


The Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes are super helpful and easy to understand, once you know where to find them and what you are looking for. When I first started as a probate attorney and filed my first petition, I’ll never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when the judge told me to “clear the probate notes.” I had no idea what he was talking about. But I quickly learned. Now, after eight years, I am sharing my experience with you. So if you have ever wondered, “what are the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes?” Read on.

Every probate court has a team of probate examiners reviewing each probate petition. The probate examiner creates probate notes to tell the judge whether the petition is complete or whether the court needs additional information. The Los Angeles Superior Court posts it probate notes online. All you need is a case number to read the probate notes applicable to that case. In the sections that follow, I will tell you where to find the probate notes, show you what they look like, and help you learn to read them.

Where to find Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes

The Los Angeles County Superior Court maintains a probate website. To see the probate notes, you will need the probate case number.

The probate case numbers in Los Angeles County are all formatted like this: [Two Digit Year] – [Letters] – [Numbers]. For example, 20STPB10436 is the case number for the probate notes we will look at in the next section.

To navigate to the probate webpage form the Superior Court’s main page, click on “Divisions,” then “Probate” at the top navigation bar, as demonstrated in the following pictures.

Once you are on the probate page for the Los Angeles Superior Court, look to the left-hand navigation bar and find “Probate Notes,” click on it, and it will take you to a page to enter your case number. For example, see the following two pictures.   

Once you enter your probate case number, you will see the probate notes for that case.

To follow a simple link to the probate notes, click HERE.

What Do the Los Angeles Superior Court Proabte Notes Look Like?

Probate notes are important for the court and the petitioner. Of the 51,478 probate cased filed in California in 2019, Los Angeles Superior Court processed 25% of all probate cases in California. This means that reading, understanding, and clearing the probate notes is essential to maintain a functioning probate system in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes will always have at least seven sections.

  1. Future Hearings.
  2. Case Information.
  3. Instructions for How to Clear the Notes.
  4. Information About the Petition Filed.
  5. Errors, Omissions, or Additional Information Needed (“Matters to Clear”).
  6. Information About the Relief the Court May Grant.
  7. A Recommendation to the Judge About what The Judge Should Do.

Let’s look at an actual probate note from a real case in Los Angeles County Probate Court.

The case number is 20STPB10436. I have changed the names of the parties and attorneys to protect their privacy, but it is all public record.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Real-Life Probate Note Example Page 1

Future Hearings.

In this example, you can see at the top of the page in BOLD it says, “Future Hearings.” Believe it or not, this tells you the time, date, location, and judge for the very next court hearing. So, in this example, the very next court hearing is March 16, 2020, in Department 11, at 8:30 in the morning with Judge Barbara R. Johnson.

Case Information.

Just under the “Future Hearings” in the probate note example above, you will see the Case Information. This section tells you the case number, the name of the person who died, the type of hearing, the petitioner’s name, and his or her attorney’s name (if any). Additionally, it tells you when the probate note was last updated, and the name of the examiner who updated it.

In this example, the case number is 20STPB 01436, and the fictional person who died is “Jane Roe.”  One of the essential portions of the probate note is the information in this section showing when the examiner last updated the probate note. The reason you need this information is that it will tell you if the examiner has reviewed your latest filings.

For instance, in the example above, if I filed a document on March 9, 2020, since the note shows that the examiner last updated the notes on March 12, 2020, I know that these notes should include any corrections or deficiencies based on my latest filing.

By contrast, when you correct or “clear” a probate note, you will typically file an additional document or an amended document.  If the probate notes show that the examiner has not updated the notes after you filed the correction or amendment, you do not need to review the notes, because they do not reflect your most recent filings.

Instructions.

Just after the Case Information, you will see the instructions. They tell you how to clear the probate notes. READ THEM!!! Specifically, pay attention to the deadlines. For example, in the notes above, it says that “documents must be filed or submitted at least three court days prior to the hearing.”  

“Court days” means business days (it is a little more technical, but 90% of the time, it means business days). So in the example above, there is a hearing on Monday, March 16, 2020. You must submit your documents by Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Why three court days? It takes three days to image the document(s) filed and get them to the judge and the probate examiner.  

Information About the Petition.

If you are the petitioner (the person who filed the petition), then you probably will not care about this. But if you are a beneficiary or heir, this section outlines what the petitioner filed and what he/she wants from the court.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Real-Life Probate Note Example Page 2

Errors, Omissions, and Deficiencies.

On page two of these probate notes, shown above, you will see the matters that you need to clear. This is the section that the court refers to when it tells you to “clear” the probate notes. It essentially means, make all of the stuff in this section go away.

For example, on the second page (shown above), you see three “matters to clear.” They are identified A, B, & C.

Letter A requests more information about the bond waiver. In my previous post, How to Probate a Will in 11 Detailed Steps, I mentioned probate bonds. They can get expensive, depending on the size of the estate. I also demonstrated a way to waive the probate bond. In the example above, it appears the person who filed the petition requested that the court waive the probate bond.

But, Letter A shows that there is more information needed. Specifically, you need to answer items 1-5 for the court. Letter B shows that someone failed to answer question “3d” in the original petition.

Letter C identified a possible inaccuracy. The petition says the person who died had kids, but question 8 in the petition fails to identify the children.

For all three notes,  you simply need to file a supplement to the petition, with each answer identified. (Again, make sure you submit the supplement at least  three court days before the hearing.)

The notes say that the supplement must be “verified.” That means that the petitioner must verify by a declaration under penalty of perjury that the facts in the supplement are true and correct.

Information About the Possible Relief the Court May Grant

Immediately after the “matters to clear,” is the section identifying what relief the court could grant. This section is critical to verify that the court is going to give you the kind of order you want.

For instance, in the real-life example above, the court could do one or all of four things (i) it can waive the bond; (ii) it can impose a $500,000 bond; (iii) appoint the petitioner as the administrator of the estate; and (iv) appoint a probate referee.

To better understand some of these terminologies check out my other posts on probate:

How to Probate a Will in 11 Detailed Steps

What Is Probate and Why Avoid It?

Probate Examiner’s Recommendation in the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Notes.

At the end of every probate note, you will see the recommendation of the probate examiner to the probate judge. This is an exceedingly significant portion of the probate note because most of the time, the probate judge follows the probate examiner’s recommendation.

For example, in the case study above, it looks like the judge will continue the hearing to allow the petition time to clear the probate notes.

Conclusion.

Probate notes are super helpful. In many cases, a lawyer has to guess what a judge is going to do. But probate is different. The probate notes tell you precisely what the judge is going to do, and precisely what the judge needs to get what you want.

James Long, JD

James earned his Juris Doctorate in 2010 and was later appointed to serve as an Expert for the Vatican at the United Nations. James is the former Managing Editor of the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy, and an Associate Editor of the St. Thomas Law Journal. James is currently a business lawyer, litigator, and estate planner with nine years' experience helping families and businesses succeed.

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