Since the beginning of COVID-19, the California court system has experienced a plethora of emergency orders, delays, and updated regulations. In fact, it’s not easy to keep up with the constant changes from the state Judicial Branch and local Superior Courts! Plus, estate planning and probate proceedings are some of the more difficult cases to regulate. For example, most probate documents cannot be signed without the physical presence of witnesses, making appearances by tele-signing nearly impossible. As a result, people navigating the probate process in California must keep up with the courts’ ever-changing probate rules during COVID-19.
California Judicial Branch Emergency Updates During Coronavirus
The Judicial Branch of California utilizes a COVID-19 media advisory page on their website to share statewide emergency updates during the current pandemic. This page lists the Judicial Council’s latest actions in response to COVID-19. However, most regulations by the Judicial Council as of late are directly related to prisons, jails, bail, and support orders. While this page may provide updated probate rules in the case of worsening conditions, individuals will need to refer to county-specific sites for more comprehensive details.
Local Court COVID-19 Probate Rules
The most effective way to keep up to date on the latest probate rules in your county is to check your Superior Court’s website. These websites are regularly updated with guidelines and rules for administering estates during the pandemic. For instance, an individual petitioning or attending a hearing for probate in Ventura County should visit ventura.courts.ca.gov to read up on the Superior Court’s new probate rules. This and other court sites host links, press releases, and headlines about their rules during coronavirus.
Filing Paperwork With the County Clerk
One of the first steps in the probate process is filing the necessary documents with the county clerk. However, the process for filing documents is different amongst California counties. For example, Ventura County requires appointments for in-person filing. Further, many courts, including Los Angeles’, are providing extensive e-filing services for court documents. In fact, e-filing is mandatory in Los Angeles County for attorneys, and optional for self-represented individuals. That said, for all in-person filing, Los Angeles County Court requires the use of drop boxes. Be sure to check your local court’s website to determine filing requirements during COVID-19.
At this point in the pandemic, most if not all courts are resuming probate hearings, either in person or virtually. For in-person appearances, however, each county has specific requirements during coronavirus. That said, all individuals appearing in a California court must wear a face mask covering their nose and mouth. Plus, individuals who refuse to wear their masks appropriately will be denied service. Finally, visitors are expected to keep at least six feet between them and others at all times and follow all other social distancing guidelines.
That said, some courts throughout California are still requesting that individuals appearing for probate hearings do so virtually whenever possible. For example, Napa County requires Zoom appearances for civil cases, including for probate. If necessary, each county court will offer in-depth instructions for virtual court hearings.
Self-Help Centers and Other Options for Assistance
Some courts are still offering in-person self-help, mostly with appointments. However, other counties are offering virtual self-help, including via email and over the phone. Plus, many counties are offering “drop in” Zoom video conferencing. That said, individuals representing themselves in probate court should consider working with a registered legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice. We offer low cost attorney-free assistance with completing and filing your probate paperwork! Plus, we are always keeping up to date on the most recent court changes due to COVID-19.
A People’s Choice offers fully virtual legal document assistance, starting with our online Quick Start My Probate Interview. Simply fill out the applicable information and one of our registered assistants will be in touch with you soon! Alternatively, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-747-2780 to learn more about how we can help you with your probate while keeping you and your loved ones safe.
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