California Notary Public

February 24, 2012 by Mitchell A. Port

Among a California notary public’s various roles, one is to serve as an officer that authenticates the signing of important legal documents. A notary is simply an impartial witness to the taking of acknowledgements and/or affidavits, the signing of documents and administering oaths.

To become an officer of the state, a notary public must complete and pass a curriculum as well as a state standardized test. The would-be notary must also go through an FBI and California Department of Justice background check. The California Secretary of State publishes online the Notary Public Handbook which contains California laws relating to notaries public and is designed to assist an applicant in preparing for the notary public examination.

As an impartial witness to the execution of legal documents, all California notary publics are prohibited by law from giving or providing any information that can be construed as practicing law. A notary cannot provide legal advice; a notary is not an attorney (though some attorneys – like me - are notaries).

A notary public's power and authority comes from the State of California and is appointed and commissioned by California's Secretary of State. A California notary public must act in an impartial, unbiased and disinterested manner since the position is a privilege that results from being given a public office.

Some typical documents a notary public will notarize include real property deeds, living trusts, healthcare directives, Powers of Attorney for property management, property titles, grants and estate plans. For certain notarizations such as documents transferring title to real estate, notaries will also fingerprint the parties involved in the transaction.

As an estate planning attorney, I notarize the documents I have prepared for my clients since I am also a notary. In most cases, I won't notarize a document for someone who is not my client or for a document I have not prepared.

For steps to obtain a notary public commission, here's a brief checklist:

Complete Approved Education

Register for the Exam

Take the Exam

Submit Fingerprints via Live Scan

Await Commission Packet

Purchase Notary Public Materials

File Notary Public Oath & Bond

For more information about this, see the Secretary of State's website at this link.

Small Probate Estates

February 13, 2012 by Mitchell A. Port

In December, 2010, I posted an article entitled "California Probate Of Small Estates". It discussed the thresholds required by California probate law for an estate to be probated. Those thresholds have been changed as of January 1, 2012.

For estates that own real estate, the threshold for filing an Affidavit Re: Real Property of Small Value is increased from $20,000 to $50,000.

Formal probate proceedings need to be initiated for California decedents when the total value of the real and personal property in the estate exceeds $150,000. The old threshold was $100,000.

For help from a California lawyer with experience in probate matters, call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.

Email To Los Angeles Probate Attorneys In The California Superior Court

February 10, 2012 by Mitchell A. Port

"Probate attorney" is the title given to lawyers employed by the Los Angeles Probate Court to assist the Court during the course of a California probate. When a hearing is about to be held by the Court, probate notes written by a probate attorney are often posted on the web in order to help clarify matters either before or at the hearing. (I am a probate attorney but not the type described in this posting.)

Sometimes contacting the probate attorney about those notes is necessary. There are e-mail parameters for responding to probate notes. While clearing of notes is usually done by supplement or other pleadings, the e-mail response allows the party to bring matters to the attention of the probate attorney, for clarification of probate notes or to ask procedural questions.
At the end of each probate note is the e-mail address for the probate attorney who prepared the notes.

There are several purposes for emailing the probate attorney:

1. To request a continuance;

2. To alert the Probate Attorney, who prepared the notes, that a document or documents were filed to clear the notes for matters in Dept 5 and Dept 11;

3. Request authority to file "clearing document" with the Attorney Order. Filing of such documents will be allowed in the discretion of the Probate Attorney. Examples include, but are not limited to: Waiver of Notice/Special Notice; FTB Income Tax Certificate; Waiver of account; Withdrawal of Request for Special Notice; Consents; and

4. To ask a question as to specific defects or issues.

E-Mail message shall conform to the following:

1. No attachments;

2. E-Mail message not to exceed 2 pages;

3. Five lines as to each defect or issue;

4. Limited to one E-Mail message per calendar matter per hearing date

Here's what an E-Mail Message looks like:

FROM: Mitchell A. Port

SUBJECT: Hearing Date 4/26/12

MESSAGE: DATE: April 23, 2012
TELEPHONE #: (310) 559-5259
HEARING DATE: April 26, 2012
CASE NAME: Estate of

Defect A: Notice of Hearing was filed 3/29/12
Defect B: Can I file the FTB Income Tax Cert with A/0?
Defect C: Supp has been filed on 3/29/12 setting forth correct statutory fee calculation

Who Should Have A Will?

February 2, 2012 by Mitchell A. Port

If you live in California, you should have a will. This is true whether you have young children, are single, married, or own even a nominal amount of personal assets or property.

You should have a will in order to control the disposition of your property.

Even if you have a living trust you should also have a will because without a will, any property not named in the living trust will pass according to California probate law rather that according to your wishes. Moreover, when you die without a will, the state will distribute your property according to a preset formula, excluding charities and relatives, unmarried partners and friends.

To create your will you only need to be "of age" and of "sound mind".

If a will is valid in the state where it was created, California probate courts will almost always consider it valid. The only requirement in California for a will to be valid is that it must be signed by the person making the will and at least two disinterested witnesses. To make it easy to make a will, California has created a form called a statutory will in which you fill in the blanks. California also recognizes holographic wills which is a will entirely in your own writing and signed by you without a witness. California does not require that wills be notarized.

For a free consultation, call a California probate law attorney. Call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.