Part II: Probate Drains Estates


Services for Californians totaling $15 billion were cut from the state budget between 2008 and 2013.


By 2010, the Alameda Court system began feeling the brunt of those cuts. Now in 2016, the status of Alameda County’s courtrooms is abysmal and the search for courtrooms has become desperate.


In a 2010 interview, San Francisco Judge Katherine Feinstein said, “This is the saddest and most heart-wrenching day in my professional life,” as she announced the layoff of 200 superior court employees.


“This is just not right. The ones who need our help the most will suffer.”


Similar cuts and courtroom closures have occurred in Alameda County.


San Joaquin, San Francisco and Alameda counties have been the hardest hit. However the demise of the court system has been felt statewide.


According to Los Angeles County Judge Lee Edmon, “All options are on the table at this point, which include a fundamental restructuring of the courts”


In 2011, the third years of cuts, the state’s courts lost $660 million; $350 million in 2012; and another $310 million in 2013.


Severe budget cuts have resulted in the raising of taxes and fees, but more important, court friendly decisions have been rendered that keep the courts open.


Conservator malfeasance has increased, with cases dragging on for months and years, as estates are drained of assets to pay fees and court costs.


Some judges have been charged with operating outside of the law and their jurisdiction and abusing their power by working with lawyers, but not nearly enough judges have been sanctioned because it is not in the courts favor to do so.


Richard Fine, a retired attorney who works exclusively consulting with clients with court probate issues, lamented, “There is so much going on that should be scrutinized, from the courts giving “incentive bonuses” in order to “retain good” judges, when judge-ships are elected positions, to court appointed conservators getting unnecessary appointments. In 2009 cash supplement payments in Alameda County went from the court to judges who realized a judicial benefit of an additional $46,303 above their salary. To assure those payments come from a continuous source judges turn to the public who are being tapped out.”


“Judges have no financial incentive to work for the public, many are bias and work against people, especially in probate,” he continued. “Cases linger, keeping the system going; lawyers file against the trusts and force mediation wherein people end up selling their homes to pay court and attorney fees.”


“ You have attorneys lying, and fraud perpetrated upon the court, but the problem is no one says anything because the court benefits… The best thing is for people to do whatever it takes to avoid Probate court. Probate court bleed-outs too many estates.”


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