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SPECIAL EBULLETIN - APRIL 2020
 
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IN THIS ISSUE
 
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The Trusts and Estates eBulletin
is published monthly by the Trusts and Estates Law Section, coeditors:

Jana G. Garrotto

Stefanie S. Cutler
Ruttenberg Cutler, LLP
scutler@ruttenbergcutler.com

Jessica G. Gordon
Thompson Coburn LLP
jgordon@thompsoncoburn.com

Trusts and Estates Executive Committee Officers:

Stefanie S. Cutler, Chair
Jana G. Garrotto, Vice-Chair
Deborah Keesey, Secretary & Treasurer
Marc L. Sallus, Immediate Past Chair

 

 
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SPECIAL EBULLETIN: LASC Probate Court Answers Questions Regarding Court Operations During Covid-19
 

Our nation is facing a public health crisis that is unprecedented in our country. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this fluid and uncertain time.

While the court offers guidance on processes within its control, it cannot address or direct processes handled outside of its governance, such as processes within the control of medical or housing facilities, the Sheriff’s Department, Banks, Secretary of State’s Office, etc. The court is also not inclined to instruct appointed counsel on how to handle their cases, including how or when or if they will conduct client visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court understands that during this time changes in practice may be required and appropriate and expects that counsel and parties will report to the Court at a temporary hearing or upon resumption of regular hearings as to the status of each individual case.

Pending further Order of the court, at present, the court is only conducting “time-sensitive essential functions” as defined in the March 17, 2020 General Order issued by the Presiding Judge of Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles which may be found at:

http://www.lacourt.org/newsmedia/uploads/14202033011125520NRP
JORDERREIMPLEMENTATIONOFNON-EMERGENCYORDERSfinal.pdf

Please keep in mind that the situation remains fluid and that we could possibly see further court orders. In addition to the General Order dated March 17, 2020, there have been subsequent court orders issued by the Presiding Judge on March 19, 2020, March 23, 2020 and April 2, 2020. If further orders are issued, updated information will be provided as the situation develops.

Set forth below are responses to frequently asked questions concerning how probate processes will be handled during this life-threatening pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – PROBATE DIVISION

Q:  How is the Court adhering to COVID-19 social distancing mandates?

A:  To comply with recommendations as set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the court has established two lines at the entrance of each building, one for drop boxes and another for matters on calendar that day. Only authorized persons with a matter on calendar may enter the courthouse. All persons in lines to enter the building or who are outside the building are monitored for social distancing by the Sheriff’s Department personnel. Upon entry into the building, social distancing continues to be maintained. There are tape lines to maintain the distance of 6 feet between each person. In addition, there are designated seats in the courtrooms to maintain appropriate social distancing. Overflow spaces have also been designated throughout the courthouse to enforce social distancing requirements. Further, elevators have signs designating that capacity has been reduced and suggesting where to position yourself for optimal distancing.

Q:  Who are authorized parties or persons for entry into the building pursuant to Presiding Judge, Kevin C. Brazile’s March 23, 2020 General Order?

A:  Parties and Attorneys who have a hearing on calendar are authorized persons. Authorized persons also include a support person for a minor or victim in a Restraining Order matter. All other persons who do not have a hearing on calendar and want to deliver documents to the Court may use the drop box outside the courthouse.

Q:  How will I know if my hearing has been continued?

A:  Minute orders and/or notices of continuance will be mailed by the Court. The Court does not mass email notices of continuance. All matters are continued based on available dates on calendar. The Court is not giving priority to telephonic appearance matters. Information about hearing dates may also be accessed via the Online Case Access available at www.lacourt.org.

Q: What is the impact to the 5-year statute until trials resume?

A: The Five-Year period was tolled pursuant to the March 17 Order by the Presiding Judge and the Chief Justice’s March 23, 2020 Order. In addition, the Judicial Council on March 28, 2020 approved an emergency motion that extended the 5-year period by 30 days.

Q:  When will matters other than Petitions for Temporary Guardianship,
Petitions for Temporary Conservatorship, and Ex Parte Applications resume?

A:  Currently, all matters on calendar after April 16th remain on calendar absent further General Order(s) from the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. However, given the fluidity of this crisis, that date could be subject to change based on further general court orders being issued.

Q:  How do I reserve a date for a Law & Motion matter?

A:  The procedure for obtaining a date for a motion remains the same. Motion requests are to be made to courtroom assistants by calling the respective department in which your case is assigned. Note that the date you seek to obtain is merely a request. A hearing date for the motion will be obtained thereafter from the Judicial Officer. You will be notified by the courtroom assistant of the date assigned.

Q:  May remote appearances be made while “Essential Hearings” are in effect?

A:  Yes. Court Call is available for telephonic appearance at hearings on Temporary Guardianship and Conservatorship matters. Court Call honors Fee waivers and cost to users without a waiver have been temporarily reduced from $94 to $54 per user.

Q:  Are hearings on Petitions for Temporary Guardianship or Temporary Conservatorship being held in the Courthouse?

A:  Yes. Temporary Guardianship and Conservatorship petitions were deemed time-sensitive essential functions and hearings are being held for these matters.

Q:  Is the proposed Conservatee required to appear at a hearing on a Petition for Temporary Conservatorship?

A: Generally, an appearance is required, unless an exception to personal appearance applies pursuant to Probate Code section 2250.4. The Court will consider any accommodations requested which may be sought from counsel or the parties.

Q: If the hearing on my petition is continued, will Temporary Letters be extended to the continued date?

A:  Yes. Minute orders and/or notices continuing a hearing include language extending Temporary Letters to the continued date.

Q:  Will the Court consider petitions on an ex parte basis where there are exigent circumstances?

A:  Yes. Any ex parte application may be brought to the court when supported by exigent circumstances or where ex parte relief is authorized under the Code. Each Judicial Officer will determine the exigence of the ex parte based upon the information provided in the submitted document. When there are opposed ex parte applications, the Judicial Officer will determine if the matter will be set for hearing and require the parties to appear in person or by phone.

Q:  Are E-filed documents being processed even with the closure of the Clerk’s Office?

A:  E-filed documents, including petitions and orders are still being processed. Petitions are being scheduled for hearing based on available dates and depending on the type of petition submitted.

Q:  Will the Court process requests for the issuance of Letters?

A: Yes. Letters for Temporary Conservatorship and Temporary Guardianship may be brought to the hearing and dropped in the drop box outside the courtroom immediately after the hearing. A self-addressed stamped envelope shall be provided with the proposed Letters for issuance.

Proposed Letters not brought on the day of hearing on temporary petitions and all other requests for Letters not associated with a temporary petition may be dropped in the available drop box outside the courthouse or may be mailed to the attention of the Probate Division with a self-addressed stamped envelope for return. If certified copies of the Letters are included in the request include a check made payable to “Los Angeles Superior Court” with “Not to Exceed $x.xx” written on the memo line. Include an amount greater than or equal to the estimated cost of the order based on the Fee Schedule posted on the Court homepage.

Q: How do I obtain certified copies of documents?

A:  Requests for copies (including certified copies) may be submitted via mail or drop box. Both Stanley Mosk and the Michael D. Antonovich Courthouses have a drop box outside the courthouse entrance. Please be specific as to what documents you need copied and if certification is requested. Enclose a self-addressed-stamped envelope and a check made payable to “Los Angeles Superior Court” with “Not to Exceed $x.xx” written on the memo line. Include an amount greater than or equal to the estimated cost of the requested copies based on the Fee Schedule posted on the Court homepage.

Q:  Can original wills be lodged?

A: At this time, all original Wills should be retained. The Court is currently looking into alternate ways to lodge the original Will with the Court.

Q:  Will Court Investigator interviews take place during this period?

A:  No. Currently only hearings on petitions for temporary conservatorships and temporary guardianships are being heard. The Court does not conduct interviews for such temporary petitions.  Interviews will resume at some point in the future when hearings on general probate petitions for appointment of conservator and general probate petitions for guardianship resume and when COVID-19 social distancing orders are no longer in effect.

Q:  How may I obtain a copy of a prior Probate Investigation report?

A:  If you need a copy of a prior court investigator report you may call (213) 830-0855 for assistance.

Q:  When will I find out the status of my Application for Renewal as Court Appointed Counsel?

A:  The Court is finalizing review of applications submitted for 2020 and will be responding to appointed counsel accordingly.  Questions may be directed to ProbateCACAppointments@lacourt.org.

Q:  Are Court Appointed Counsel claims being processed? 

A:  Yes, the Court continues to process Court Appointed Counsel claims. Claims should be submitted by Counsel within 90 days of service for processing.

Q: We had an MSC scheduled which will be cancelled due to the closure of the Court. When and how can we reschedule?

A: All MSC’s through April 30th have been cancelled. A cancelled MSC may be rescheduled with the department where the matter is pending when the next hearing takes place. There is now a dedicated email address for Mandatory Settlement Conferences at SMCProbateMSC@lacourt.org.

Q: For ex partes, will I come to the courthouse and wait in the ex parte area or be seen by a judge?

A: "Traditional/live" ex partes are being processed and decided daily solely upon the documents filed with the court. Opposed ex partes may be set for future hearing in the department pursuant to LASC Rule 4.12(c)(1). Except for ex partes set for hearing, no one involved in ex partes should appear at Stanley Mosk Courthouse or wait in the Probate Hall near Room 260. A Probate Attorney will not be available there to interact with anyone. The order on the ex parte will be electronically returned to Bar members in a timely manner. Questions or issues may be sent to ProbateExPartes@lacourt.org.

 

Click the link below for regular updates regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the LA area courts and the legal community.

> LACBA's Updated News and Documents Regarding COVID-19


 
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Recent Cases
 
Probate Law

Probate Code §859 is punitive in nature; if a probate court orders relief under §856 and §859, it is requiring the person in possession of the subject property to return it and the person who is culpable for misappropriating it to pay a statutory penalty.

Estate of Ashlock - filed March 3, 2020, Fifth District
Cite as 2020 S.O.S. 987
Full text click here >

An action to recover a fraudulent conveyance of a determinate sum of money must proceed under law, but an action involving an allegedly fraudulent conveyance of chattels, cash, and intangibles is an action in equity. There is no authority for the idea that the superior court may not consider prior conduct in the same case in federal court as a basis for imposing sanctions.

Moofly Productions, LLC v. Favila - filed March 4, 2020, Second District, Div. One 
Cite as 2020 S.O.S. 1001 
Full text click here >


 
 
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