Letters of Special Administration on a rush basis

Special Administration on a rush basis can happen in a California probate court. However, the facts have to be right to be granted the special letters on a rush basis. Today I will discuss the way this works and how you could obtain Letters of Special Administration in as short as 48 hours in some cases.

First of all going to probate court on a rush basis is called filing a petition on an “ex parte” basis. Lawyers will often say “I am going in ex parte.”  I should pause here as a young lawyer I pronounced this something like “x par-tay.”  It’s actually pronounced more like “x par-D.”  However, call it par-tay, party, par-d, or something else your lawyer should know what you are talking about. If you aren’t sure then say “I need _________ [insert legal action here] on a rush basis.”

According to the law.com ex parte is defined as:

(A) A conversation or discussion made with a judge by one party without the other party present. (B) Of the one part. Many things may be done ex parte, when the opposite party has had notice; an affidavit or deposition is said to be taken ex parte when only one of the parties attends to taking the same. Ex parte paterna, on the side of the father, or property descended to a person from his father; ex parte materna, on the part of the mother. (C) An ex parte injunction where a court hears only the party requesting an injunction before its issuance by the court.

In California probate courts we can often get ex parte petitions approved but the courts are strict. Generally they require extreme urgency.  I should clarify that convenient to you is not an extreme urgency to the Judge.  So, if you would like access to a deceased person’s bank account to avoid credit card late fees the court probably won’t see that as urgent. If the decedent’s house will be lost at a foreclosure sale (not just a filing of a notice of default but actual filing of a notice of sale) then the court will almost certainly see it as urgent. So the first step is always coming up with the urgent reason(s).

I have had a few special letters cases recently. In all the cases the special letters were needed so the family could step into the decedent’s shoes to deal with pending legal matters. That is either the deceased was involved with a lawsuit before death or the family was starting a lawsuit after death and there were time sensitivities involved.  In one case the family member needed the special letters to access medical records to be used in a lawsuit.

The document to file to obtain letters of special administration are:

  • Ex parte petition (or in other cases it might be called an application) for Letters of Special Administration;
  • Declaration of urgency;
  • Proof of service of telephonic notice (generally everybody is entitled to 24 hours notice);
  • Proposed Court order;

I should point out that one of the biggest issues we see is determining the best way to get everything filed from an administrative standpoint. Each case works differently. There are both local rules (which are actual rules available on the court website) and unwritten local rules (procedures that the court uses).

Some courts charge $435 to file, some charge $60, some charge $40, some charge nothing and I am sure there are other amounts as well. Knowing the right way to file can save you money. In some cases if you file right you can file an initial petition for letters plus a petition for letters of special administration and just pay one $435 filing fee. On the other hand if you file your regular petition and go back a week later for your special petition you might spend $435 for each petition. Again, each court handles things differently.

The key with Letters of Special Administration is working with an experienced probate attorney who knows what to file and when to file it.

Let us know if you have any questions regarding Letters of Special Administration or other California probate subjects.

-John Palley

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