A lot of attorneys call themselves a “probate attorney.”  My question to you is: do you want a “probate attorney” or a “probate court attorney?”  My suggestion is you make sure you get a California Probate COURT attorney. I’ll tell you the difference and why it matters.

At the time of writing this post I have been an attorney since 1994 – about 27 years! During the first 20+ years I considered myself a “probate attorney.”  I had probate court cases AND I also drafted wills and trusts… AND I did some conservatorships and guardianships… AND I did some trust administration… AND I even did some totally unrelated stuff like business law.

Over the years I focused in more and more. First I got rid of the business law and was 100% focused on probate issues – wills, trusts and probate court.  Then I got rid of conservatorships and guardianships.  Then I stopped doing trust administration.  Then, I did something unique and stopped taking will and trust clients (or estate planning as it’s known).  I did something wholly unique, from any attorney I know of in California, and I changed my practice so the only cases I take are PROBATE COURT CASES.

That’s right, when I say I am a probate court attorney that’s what I am. Yes, I have attorneys in my firm who do the other related work, but my practice is 100% PROBATE COURT CASES ONLY!  I do not know of a single other attorney who can say this. NONE!  Ask other attorneys and see what they say.  Every single case I take we are filing a petition in the probate court and most of those are probate estate or the traditional “probate.”

There are occasional trust petitions such as Heggstad petitions, other probate code 850 petitions, petitions for instructions, petition to amend or revoke a trust, and petitions to appoint a trustee. However, the overwhelming majority of my cases are old fashion probate court cases.

Why does this matter?  By highly specializing, as I have, I am able to be the most up on all laws and procedures related to probate court filings.  This includes probate code rules, rules of court, local rules and even unofficial local rules. Also, I have been able to highly refine my system so it is extremely efficient and accurate. Most of my cases are similar, in many ways, and thus I am able to implement consistent methods and obtain consistent results!

Yes, my official title is that I am a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law as determined by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. However, the reality is I just do the probate work and only the probate COURT work.

When you are interviewing attorneys I encourage you to ask them about their practice.  Ask them what percentage of their cases are probate court cases. If it’s less than 100% I think you should ask yourself if they are the best suited to help you!

Another thing you can do is look at their website.  Do they have a bunch of areas of law listed?  Or do they have ONE?  Look at my site… the site you are reading this on… and notice it is ALL about probate court petitions!

I hope I can help you deal with the California probate court if you find yourself in need of an attorney’s services.

-John Palley

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