If you are reading this page you probably had the question: “How quickly will I receive my California probate court ORDER?” There are many different probate court orders so we will talk about the two most common. Also, every county in California does things differently and in some cases majorly different. As I have a statewide probate practice I keep track of all the counties and all the probate courts so I can expedite things for my clients. I will talk today generally.

ORDER FOR PROBATE

The first order that is most commonly received in a California probate case is the “ORDER FOR PROBATE” which is also know by it’s form number “DE-140.”   The Order for Probate is typically the first order given in a case. After the Petition for Probate is filed and the first court date is heard by the Judge the Judge (or often his clerk using a stamp) will sign the Order for Probate.  Then what?

At most Courts you should file a proposed order at least a week before your court date. In some cases this won’t work as there could be questions that the Judge needs to decide but in most cases you can file your proposed order before the hearing. At the hearing, or just after, the order is signed and a copy is placed in the file (either paper file or online file if the county offers that).  A signed Order for Probate is good but really just the start!

I have seen differences ranging from the court order being available immediately in some cases and a month or two in other cases. However, I would say right now one week seems to be the standard in most counties of California. 

Once the Order for Probate has been signed and processed then the Court can issue Letters. We will do a whole separate blog on issuing of letters!

In some cases, but not many, you might want a certified copy of the Order for Probate. If that has been requested you take a check for the certification fee (around $50) to the Court clerk to issue the certified copy. Here’s where it gets funny. Some courts charge a fifty cent “copy charge” which to me is repetitive since I am paying fifty bucks for a “certified copy” so it feels to me like the fifty cent copy charge is already included! Nonetheless each court, and maybe even each clerk, do things slightly different here. Just something to be aware of.

ORDER 

The Order or sometimes called “Court Order” or “Order after Judgment” or “Order on First and Final Report” or many other names. This is the big one because this is what gives the Personal Representative the authority to WRITE CHECKS to end the probate.  This is most people’s favorite part of the probate process.  Similar to above you file your proposed order a week before your final hearing.  There is not a form number as  these documents are prepared by your probate attorney – “hand drafted” as some say.  Some attorneys actually type the word “proposed” on the order and then the Judge crosses that word out when they sign the order.

Again, I would say one week is a typical turnaround time but it can be much longer. I recently had one that took eight months to receive but, of course, we did have the three month court closure in there so maybe it would have only been a few months without the Covid problem!?  I won’t name that court though it’s a court in Northern California, in the vicinity of the Bay Area, and they are notoriously S-L-O-W!

In cases with no real estate there is no certification needed generally. A certified copy of the final court order is generally only needed when there is real estate as the certified court order will be recorded in the county recorder’s office and acts as a deed. Ok, you ask, how do you get a certified copy of a final order?  Typically you send a check for $50 (again, some counties have a fifty cent per page copy fee also) to the court and ask for a certified copy.

Once received you take that to the county recorder to record. Some counties require a PCOR form (preliminary change in ownership) along with the court order. You also might need to file the parent-child exclusion forms if applicable. The recording, these days, costs about $100.  Once recorded the final court order becomes a public record but you should still put the original in a safe place.

ORDER FOR DISCHARGE

One other order that is in every case is the order for discharge. This is actually THE LAST court order in a probate.  We typically suggest waiting six months before filing the final discharge. However, some counties do not give you that long unless you advise the Judge. We help our clients through this process. We’ll cover the final discharge in a separate blog post but simply put you file receipts signed by each person who received assets from the probate estate along with a request for final discharge form. If satisfactory to the court the Judge will sign the bottom part of that form and that discharges the personal representative and their job is DONE!

Any questions about court orders please let me know!

-John Palley

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