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Probate Division

The Probate Court encompasses a broad range of supervisory and protective proceedings. Some common types of procedures heard in Probate Court are:

  • The administration of a decedent’s estates.  After someone dies, their assets are transferred through the decedent's estate. These can range from small estate set-asides to formal probate, which are supervised proceedings.
  • Petitions for appointment of guardian or conservatorGuardianship and conservatorship are two legal terms used to describe protective proceedings for individuals who require assistance with their personal care or financial matters. The main difference between guardianship and conservatorship is that guardianship deals with minors, while conservatorship deals with adults in need of assistance. California is among the few states that use both terms, while most other states use only the term "guardianship".
  • Petitions pertaining to the administration or construction of trusts. 
  • Compromise of claims of minors or a person with a disability.
  • Mental health petitions.
  • Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) conservatorships and other miscellaneous matters. 

Probate Investigations

In Guardianship and Conservatorship cases, before the judge makes a decision, the court appoints someone to investigate. 

 In guardianships, if the proposed guardian is a relative of the minor, the court investigator will search for any criminal record, driving record, or Child Protective Services record of the proposed guardian, as well as any adult living in their home

The court investigator may also perform a field investigation to interview the parties involved and visit the proposed guardian’s home to discuss and review the proposed living arrangements for the minor. 

The court investigator will then report their findings to the court and make a recommendation before the appointment hearing. 

If the proposed guardian is a non-relative of the minor, the investigation is performed by the Department of Social Services. They will prepare a report and recommendation for the court.

Probate Document Examinations 

The Probate Examiner assists the court by reviewing files and documents in routine probate matters to verify that they meet the requirements related to form, content, accuracy, and procedure required by statutes and local rules.

Probate Notes may identify procedural deficiencies or other concerns that need to be addressed before the judge can rule on the petition. These notes are generally available for review three weeks before the hearing date. Parties can access probate notes by using the court's online case portal.

Probate Tentative Rulings

A tentative ruling is a statement by the court that outlines its planned decision on a matter. This decision is based on the relevant laws and the papers filed by the parties. Probate tentative rulings are generally accessible by calling (707) 521-6607 the day before the hearing after 2:00 PM, while tentative rulings in Guardianship cases can be obtained by calling after 11:00 AM. You can also obtain these rulings by accessing the Probate Tentative Rulings

Probate Calendars

List of Probate Division Calendars

Hearings regarding trusts, decedents' estates, and conservatorships (other than limited and LPS) are usually conducted in Courtroom 23, located at the Civil and Family Law Courthouse, 3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. If you are not an attorney and need to file probate documents, please go to the Probate Window in the Civil and Family Courthouse, opposite Courtroom 18.

Ex Parte Matters

There are two Ex Parte Procedures that may be used to get matters considered by a Judge.

Emergency Procedure: 
This procedure is available for emergency orders and/or orders that are urgently needed to prevent immediate danger to a person or property. 

If an attorney is submitting an application for an ex parte order in matters related to conservatorships, decedent’s estates, and trust matters, they must be e-filed. If a party without an attorney is submitting the application, they may drop it off at the Civil and Family Law Courthouse Clerk's office. The application must be submitted before 10:00 a.m. and must comply with California Rules of Court, Rules 3.1201, et seq.

Opposition papers may be submitted in person at the Civil and Family Law Courthouse Clerk's office or via e-File by 10:00 a.m. on the day the ex parte application is presented. If service of the opposition papers is not possible, an ex parte declaration shall be filed providing the reasons for the lack of service.

Orders will be available for pick-up or electronically returned to counsel or parties after 2:00 pm on the same day unless otherwise ordered by the court. Please refer to Local Rule 6.2.G. 

Non-Emergency “Drop-Off Ex Parte Procedure” 

For Conservatorships (other than limited or LPS Conservatorships), Decedent’s Estates, Guardianships of the Estate, and Trust matters:

This procedure is available for non-emergency orders and/or orders that do not have an urgent need to prevent immediate danger to a person or property and are otherwise authorized by law to be submitted ex parte, or by local rule. Applications for Ex Parte Orders in matters related to conservatorships (other than limited or LPS Conservatorships), decedent’s estates, and trust matters may be e-filed. A party without an attorney may submit an application at the Civil and Family Law Courthouse Clerk's office, during normal business hours. The application must include “Drop-Off Ex Parte” in the caption of the pleadings. Orders will be available after 2:00 p.m. for pick-up, or electronically returned to counsel or parties, not later than five (5) court days after the request is presented, unless otherwise ordered by the court. Please refer to Local Rule 6.2.G.

Opposition is not part of the drop-off ex parte system.  If the matter is contested, or likely to be contested, or where opposition is anticipated, the request should be submitted as a same day ex parte (if exigency exists) or a noticed motion/petition.

Probate Attorneys

Probate matters can be quite complicated, and it's important to keep in mind that probate examiners, clerks, and other court personnel are not permitted to provide legal advice. It is highly recommended that you seek the help of a qualified attorney to answer your questions and provide assistance with these legal matters. 

Please note that the court is not authorized to recommend an attorney. However, for more information and assistance, you can contact the Sonoma County Lawyer Referral Service at (707) 546-5297 or the Council on Aging Senior Legal Services at (707) 525-1146


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