Yesterday I attended a presentation by the Trusts and Estates section of the Orange County Bar Association. As customary for beginning of the year presentations, it was an overview of the new rules, laws and other items of note to begin the new year.
One of the presenters was the presiding judge that oversees the entire Orange County court system. His presentation was very dire and alarming about the state of the courts in California.
The sad thing is that most parties are in probate court because people fail to plan.
That's typically why probate gets opened. That's typically why conservatorships are sought. That's also why people seek guardianship of the estate to manage funds for minor children.
Many of these court proceedings could be avoided if people plan properly. First you have to plan properly.
Second to ensure that your proper planning will work, it is often advised to plan early! Most of the challenges to an otherwise proper plan is that the planning was done so close to when someone dies or becomes incapacitated that the objecting person thinks that you were under the undue influence or coercion of another especially where the plan confers an undue benefit to another person. Planning early while you are in good health can go a long way.
The presenter noted that the courts are under severe delays in setting matters to be heard, in processing orders and otherwise giving the parties speedy justice for the relief they seek. This may sound like hyperbole, but as an attorney that routinely practices before the probate courts, the delays are causing frustration to clients and families alike. When people pass away or become incapacitated -- the emotional turmoil during these times is already through the roof -- add in having to seek court orders, it becomes a very trying time in people's lives. If you care enough about what's best for you and your loved ones, get the proper plan in place. At least for most people, with proper planning in place, making decisions concerning your affairs while you are alive (but not well) or have passed becomes more routine and can be conducted without seeking court orders.