In California the courts provide a person with tremendous authority when the court appoints that person as:
- Executor or administrator in charge of the probate decedent’s estate court proceeding (or “probate”) of someone who has passed away;
- Conservator in charge of the conservatorship court proceeding (or “conservatorship”) for an adult who can’t take care of himself anymore; or
- Guardian in charge of the guardianship court proceeding (or “guardianship”) for a minor who needs someone to manage his affairs.
The court has a system for vetting proposed executors, administrators, conservators, and guardians before appointing them. Depending on the type of case, that system may include notice, screening, investigation, and advocacy.
The court also has safeguards to ensure that the assets are managed appropriately by the executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian. Our next post will be called “How Do California Courts Make Sure that Executors, Administrators, Conservators, and Guardians Carry Out Their Duties Properly?” Check it out.
After filing a petition with the court asking the court to appoint you as executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian, you will need to arrange for mailing formal notice to all interested parties. That notice needs to provide information regarding the court hearing of your petition.
This requirement exists so any party who knows any reason why the court should not appoint you will tell the judge about it.
Providing notice doesn’t guarantee that the court will have all of the information that it needs to vet proposed executors, administrators, conservators, and guardians.
You need to publish notice after filing the first petition asking the court to appoint you as executor or administrator. Specifically, you need to have a local newspaper publish the notice. That notice must provide information regarding the court hearing of your petition.
The idea behind mailing notice and publishing notice is the same. Any interested party who (1) reads a local newspaper, (2) knows you, and (3) believes that the court should not appoint you, may show up at court and make her concerns known.
Again, there are limitations to the efficacy of publication. Fortunately the court has additional tools available.
You must file a screening form when you file a petition asking the court to appoint you as executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian.
When petitioning the court to appoint you, you will need to file with the court a screening document as follows:
- Confidential Statement of Birth Date and Driver’s License Number (to be executor or administrator of a probate);
- Confidential Conservator Screening Form (to be conservator of a conservatorship); or
- Confidential Guardianship Screening Form (to be guardian of a guardianship).
The court uses the confidential information in these documents to screen proposed executors, administrators, conservators, and guardians.
This confidential information does not become available to the public. The court receives these documents into a confidential portion of its case file.
If you filed a petition asking the court to appoint you conservator of a conservatorship, then a court investigator will conduct an investigation and file a report with the court. This court investigator’s report may include recommendations to the court about whether it should appoint you as conservator.
The court will rely on the court investigator’s report during the hearing of your petition.
In conservatorships and guardianships, the court appoints a private attorney or public defender to represent the proposed conservatee or ward. (The ward is the child who is the subject of a guardianship proceeding.)
Whether the court appoints a private attorney or the public defender’s office varies from county to county. When a private attorney is appointed, she is chosen at random from a list of available, qualified attorneys.
This attorney becomes the advocate for the proposed conservatee or proposed ward regarding all relevant issues. One of those issues is whether you are an appropriate candidate to act as conservator or guardian.
Courts generally rely heavily on the opinions of these court-appointed attorneys.
Get Help from an Experienced Probate, Conservatorship, and Guardianship Attorney
You need an experienced attorney to help you navigate this court system for vetting you as the proposed executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian. It’s impossible to list every potential issue that could arise and the potential resolutions to each of them.
If you can’t address every potential issue effectively, then you won’t achieve your goal to become executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian.
Hiring an attorney experienced with probates, conservatorships, and guardianships can help you avoid that problem.
At Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., we have over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve their goals in probates, conservatorships, and guardianships. Contact Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., in Torrance to assist you with your Los Angeles County probate court case.