Probate Court and the California Court System

The California court system is the hub of California’s judicial branch of government. The court system is organized hierarchically, with County Superior Courts acting as the trial courts at the first layer. Above them lie the Courts of Appeal, and at the top is the Supreme Court of California.
The Supreme Court of California has seven justices. Although the Supreme Court of California has jurisdiction over many issues, its jurisdiction over decisions of the Courts of Appeal is discretionary. This means the Supreme Court of California can choose whether or not to accept an appeal from the decision of a Court of Appeal. Naturally, the Supreme Court of California generally only accepts appeals from cases which present important legal questions or which involve issues on which the Courts of Appeal are in disagreement about.

California’s Courts of Appeal are divided into six geographic Districts. The Courts of Appeal address all appeals from the decisions of Superior Courts.

Each County of California has their own Superior Court system. The Superior Courts function as the main trial courts throughout the State. To facilitate the administration of these trial courts, most Superior Courts are divided into different departments or divisions by subject matter. Common divisions of a Superior Court include a General Civil Division, a Criminal Division, a Family Division, and a Probate Division.

The Probate Division of a Superior Court will often be called the “Probate Court”, but it is not a separate “probate court” – it’s just a sub-division of the County Superior Court. The Probate Court has jurisdiction over matters brought under California’s Probate Code, including transfers of property after a person passes away, matters involving trusts, cases involving elder abuse, guardianships, and conservatorships.

The Probate Court generally has a number of individuals fulfilling different roles to expedite the proceedings as much as possible. There will naturally be a number of judges appointed over the Probate Court. In addition, the Probate Court often has its own dedicated “Probate Clerk”. The Court Clerk processes the filing of papers for the Court, and the Probate Clerk specifically handles filings for the Probate Court. After the Probate Clerk has processed a filing, an assistant for the judges, called a “Probate Examiner”, reviews the documents before any hearings. Several days before a hearing, the Probate Examiner provides the judge and the parties with their proposal of how the issues should be resolved. That way, the Judges and the parties go into the hearing with an indication of what the most relevant issues are and what the points they should focus on.

Court procedures can be complex to navigate, and the legal issues involved in trust and probate issues can stir strong emotions in those who are directly involved in the matter. David J. Hallstrom, Esq. and his trust and probate litigation team are ready to leverage their broad experience and perspective to help you achieve an effective, practical, and timely resolution.

Call David J. Hallstrom at (888) 308-1261 to schedule your consultation.

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