Each year, more than 15 million Americans file a civil lawsuit. Many of those are Trust & Probate lawsuits. "I'll See You in Court!" is a frequent reality. When we discuss "Jurisdiction," the next question will be: "Which Court Will Hear This Matter?"
A pivotal question in Estate, Trust and Probate matters is determining which Court has the authority to decide a disputed estate case. This is called "jurisdiction." In El Dorado County, California, just as in all of California Counties, estate litigation is subject to jurisdictional limits. Jurisdiction is the power of a Court to hear and determine proceedings. If the Court does not have the authority to hear the estate dispute, the next question is: Which Court does have the power?
Jurisdictional limits or Judicial Authority may relate to geography, citizenship of the parties, location of the parties, the Court's ability to apply relief, location of estate assets, location or domicile of the decedent, situs of trust administration and the subject matter of the controversy. California Superior Court Judges, Probate or Civil, want to make sure that they have the authority to hear a matter before they actually hear it. Do they have the authority to decide the disputes filed in their Court and to issue the orders that are sought by the plaintiff, petitioner, defendant or respondent? If the estate dispute is over Colorado property owned by a now deceased Idahoan with beneficiaries in Alabama, the California Court is likely to say that it has no authority over the matter.
Jurisdictional disputes are not always clear from the beginning. Who has jurisdiction over a trust if a California trustee moves to Costa Rica and administers the trust from Costa Rica? These and other jurisdictional issues appear with some frequency.
A California Superior Court - whether it's located in Santa Clara, San Francisco, Placerville, South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County) or Sacramento, exercises jurisdiction over a decedent's estate when the following requirements are present: (1) there has been an actual death; (2) the decedent, at the time of his or her death (a) was domiciled in California (lived in California); or left property in California; and (3) proper notice to interested parties is published.
If the decedent had not been domiciled in California - whether out of state or out of the United States - at the time of his or her passing, the California Court doesn't possess jurisdiction (power or authority) to appoint a personal representative for the estate unless the decedent was a property owner in California. Another way to say it - if the decedent passed away in Bugtussle, Oklahoma, but possessed real property in his name (not in the name of a trust) in Cool, Kyburz, Rescue, Pollock Pines and Grizzly Flats, for example, then a probate must be opened in El Dorado County.
The California Probate Code provides for exclusive subject matter jurisdiction (power and authority) over the internal affairs of a given trust. In turn, the internal affairs of a trust apply to a broad spectrum of activities. The Probate Court in El Dorado County handles a substantial number of probate and estate cases annually.
El Dorado County is on the eastern edge of California's Central Valley and extends to the Nevada County line. Its 2016 population is estimated to be nearly 190,000 people. There is one Superior Court in El Dorado County with five locations: Two branches on Fairlane Court in Placerville; the branch on Main Street in Placerville; the branch on Cameron Park Drive in Cameron Park and the branch on Johnson Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe.
The two incorporated Cities that are a part of El Dorado County and are subject to El Dorado County Superior Court jurisdiction include Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. There are a large number of unincorporated communities in El Dorado County - among them Cameron Park, Camino, El Dorado Hills, Serrano, Shingle Springs and Tahoma.
Hackard Law's trust litigation attorneys frequently protect client interests and assets in El Dorado County in trust and estate disputes, including:
Interpretation of testamentary documents
Lack of testamentary capacity
Preparation and analysis of trustee's accounting
Pursuing or preventing termination of trusts
Petitions for interpretation of trusts
Petitions for determination of heirs
Resignation or removal of trustees
Validity of wills or codicils
Will forgery claims and cases
Our probate litigation lawyers can assist family members as well as family businesses in estate, trusts, will and probate litigation in El Dorado County, California. When we first review a case, we always look to answer the first question: Does the El Dorado County Superior Court have legal authority over the matters to which it is asked to decide? If not El Dorado County, then where?
At Hackard Law we assist our clients with issues that are often subject to the jurisdiction of the El Dorado County Probate Court. If you are facing these and other California Probate Court estate and will issues, feel free to call us today at (916) 313-3030.