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Location: Civil and Family Law Courthouse, 3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403
For Mailing: Hall of Justice, 600 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa CA 95403
Office Hours: 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM Mon-Fri
Court Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Mon-Fri
(707) 521-6650 8:00 AM to 12:00PM Mon-Fri
For contact information regarding all initial Guardianship petitions for Person and Estate and Person only go to:
Hon. Judge Rene Auguste Chouteau
Thursday, 2:30 PM
Civil and Family Law Courthouse
3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403
The Probate Calendar Clerk / Courtroom Clerk may be reached at 521-6650.
Matters processed by the Probate Division include wills, conservatorships, guardianships of the state, mental health or LPS petitions, compromise of minors claims, petitions for change of name and special needs trusts.
Probate matters requiring notice to be placed on the calendar, must be filed by 4:00 PM on Tuesday three weeks prior to the assigned hearing date. If Tuesday is a holiday, matters must be filed Monday.
Ex partes regarding these matters are heard before the Probate judge
Guardianship of the Person Only:
Applications for Ex Parte Orders in matters related to Guardianship of the person only, may be dropped off at the Sonoma County Court Clerk's office, Probate Division, Monday through Friday, during normal business hours. If same day review is sought, the application must be submitted between 8:00am and 8:30am. Orders will be available for pick up by counsel or parties after 2:00pm on the day the order is signed. A party or attorney for a party can call (707-521-6650) to be informed of the status of the application. Applications submitted after 8:30am will be sent to the reviewing judge on the following business morning. This procedure is available for emergency orders only; routine and/or non-emergency matters will not be considered on an ex parte basis.
Opposition: Opposition papers may be submitted in person at the Sonoma County Court Clerk's Office, Probate Division. A copy of the opposition papers shall also be served personally or by fax on the opposing party by 8:00am on the day of judicial review. If service of the opposition papers is not possible, an ex parte declaration shall be filed providing the reasons for the lack of service.
Probate tentative rulings are usually available on the day before the hearing, after 11:00 AM by calling (707) 521-6881, or by accessing the Tentative Ruling Website.
- Do we have to file a will with the court?
Probate Code section 8200(a) states that unless a petition for probate of the will is earlier filed, the custodian of a will shall, within 30 days after having knowledge of the death of the testator do the following: 1) deliver the will to the clerk of the superior court, and 2) mail a copy to the person named in the will as executor. We call this process "depositing a will for safekeeping". A receipt will be given to the person delivering a will at the time it is deposited with the court. Certified copies of the will may be obtained at any time once the will has been deposited with the court.
If a petition for probate is filed, the will should accompany the petition. Wills and probate cases are of great interest to genealogists. These documents are kept permanently by the court and are eventually transferred from paper to microfilm.
- Graduated filing fees for PROBATE cases
Repealled on 4-1-08 (See Burkey v. State of California Appeal case #B-197307).
- How do I get a hearing date on the probate calendar?
Dates for initial petitions for conservatorships and for conservatorship accountings are provided by the Probate Court Investigators Office by calling (707) 521-6586. Your papers must be filed by the close of business on the 22nd day (a Tuesday) prior to the hearing. For all other probate matters you may select your own date following this rule: The Probate Calendar is heard each week on Wednesday. Normally, notice requirements for probate filings are 22 days from the date of filing to the hearing date. Pick a Wednesday and then count backwards 22 days for the Notice of Hearing paperwork to be served. Do not forget to allow an extra day if there is a holiday during the 22 days. Click on the following link for information about all calendars handled by the Probate Unit: click here.
- How do I get guardianship for a child?
- How do I obtain a small estate affidavit?
A small estate affidavit (see Probate Code §13100, et seq.) may be used in certain circumstances. Click on this link for more information and a sample form: http://www.courts.ca.gov/partners/equalaccess.htm
- How do you get a legal name change?
In order to legally change your name a judge must sign an order granting your request for change of name. This happens in one of two ways:
- You wish to change your name for a reason other than divorce:
A petition for change of name must be filed with the court and notice published in an adjudicated newspaper. This process takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete. Forms for this purpose along with some information are located here.
- A divorce has been granted and you wish to return to a name used prior to your marriage:
Complete Judicial Council form FL-395. Give the completed form to the court for processing in your divorce case. There is a nominal fee required for processing the order, however this is much quicker and less expensive than filing a petition for change of name. Be sure to include 2 copies of your completed form and a self addressed, stamped envelope so we can return your signed order to you. You may wish to include fees for certified copies. ($15.00 to certify + $.50 per page to copy) Click here to access a copy of form FL-395 which you may fill in: http://www.courts.ca.gov/xbcr/cc/fl395.pdf
If you need additional information about changing your name, click here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/xbcr/cc/fl395.pdf
- You wish to change your name for a reason other than divorce:
- How much is a certified copy?
$25.00 to certify the document plus $0.50 per page to copy.
- What does one do to become Executor? How do I get Letters Testamentary?
In order to become an Executor, several things must happen.
- The will must nominate a person to act as Executor;
- A petition for probate must be filed asking the court to admit the will for probate and to appoint the nominated Executor to act.
- A judge must grant the petition for probate.
Letters Testamentary is the document giving the executor the power to act when marshalling the assets, paying the creditors and distributing the remaining assets. Letters will be issued after a judge has signed an order granting the petition for probate. You can learn more about probate at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/partners/equalaccess.htm
- What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the decedent's assets, paying taxes, debts and expenses and then distributing the balance to beneficiaries.
A petition for probate is generally required when the gross value of the estate exceeds $100,000 and there is no (1) surviving spouse, or (2) there is a surviving spouse who is not the sole beneficiary or is receiving the property in a trust.
The estate can be intestate or testate. Special terms relate to each of these.
Testate = A Will exists – assets pass to devisees pursuant to terms of the will
- Persons who inherit are called Devisees
- The person administering the estate is called an Executor
- The document giving the Executor the power to act is called Letters Testamentary
Intestate = No will exists – assets pass to heirs pursuant to state law
- Persons who inherit are called heirs
- The person administering the estate is called an Administrator
- The document giving the Administrator the power to act is called Letters of Administration
- What is the minimum monetary requirement for filing a probate? Do we have to file a probate?
In general, an estate with a gross value of less than $100,000 does not require a formal probate proceeding. There are summary procedures that may be used in certain instances. As with most other things in life, there are exceptions. An attorney is the best person to answer this question.
- Where can I get a list of the adjudicated newspapers?
The County Clerk maintains the list of adjudicated newspapers. Click here to access the list: http://www.sonoma-county.org/Clerk/HTML_Documents/Search/Frameset_Search.htm
- Why do I have to publish in a newspaper?
The legislature has determined that publication is an effective means of giving notice of legal actions to the public. For this reason certain legal procedures require publication of notice in an adjudicated newspaper. For example, when a person petitions the court to change their name, the law requires the Order to Show Cause be published so the public can respond if it so chooses. When the estate of a deceased person is probated, one of the required methods for notice to heirs and creditors is by publication.