California Conservatorships And Guardianships

California probate courts use PVP attorneys. What is a PVP attorney? Do you need one? How do you get one? What exactly does a PVP attorney do?

The abbreviation “PVP” is short for “Probate Volunteer Panel”, which is a panel of attorneys who register with the Los Angeles Superior Court to assist with the resolution of various California probate issues. The PVP panel consists of California attorneys who the court appoints in probate and family law matters, including conservatorships, guardianships and related proceedings. In a typical proceeding, a PVP attorney is appointed to represent the interests of the potential conservatee or ward.

Here’s what the California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, says in the probate section of its Court Rules, Chapter 10:

PROBATE VOLUNTEER PANEL ATTORNEYS
10.83 PROBATE VOLUNTEER PANEL GENERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS AND PROCEDURES FOR APPOINTMENT TO THE PANEL
All Probate Volunteer Panel (PVP) Attorneys must meet the following General Requirements:

(a) Active Status with the State Bar. PVP Attorneys must have maintained active status with the State Bar of California for each of the preceding three years and have no disciplinary proceedings pending and none filed against him/her during the preceding twelve months.

(b) Submit Application and Compliance Statement. PVP Attorneys must complete and submit the following:

(1) An Application for Appointment to the Probate Volunteer Panel.

(2) A Compliance Statement with the Application, and annually thereafter.

These forms may be obtained on-line at www.lasuperiorcourt.org, see “Probate”, from the Superior Court Probate Department, located at 111 N. Hill Street, Room 258, Los Angeles, California, or by calling (213) 974-5471.

(c) Educational and MCLE Requirements.

(1) All Attorneys must complete at least twelve hours of MCLE, during his/her State Bar reporting period, in areas of decedent estates, conservatorships/guardianships or trust administration.

(2) Completion of the mandatory Probate Volunteer Panel training course(s) within one year from submission of his/her application.

(d) Professional Liability Insurance. All Probate Volunteer Panel Attorneys must carry Professional Liability Insurance with policy limits consistent with the value of the matters handled, and at a minimum an amount of $100,000 per claim and $300,000 per year.

10.84 PROBATE VOLUNTEER PANEL – REQUIREMENTS FOR SPECIFIC AREAS OF INTEREST
(a) General Requirements for Specific Areas of Interest. PVP Attorneys must meet the following general requirements for specific area(s) of interest:

(1) Decedent Estate and Trust Administration. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least six different probate or trust administration court proceedings, including three decedent estate or trust proceedings from inception through final account and/or order for distribution.

The Attorney must have experience and/or training in tax-related issues sufficient to enable the Attorney to identify tax issues from the facts of the case and to competently represent the client’s interests concerning the potential tax consequences of the particular matter.

(2) Conservatorships and Guardianships of Estates. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least four conservatorship/guardianship of estate matters, including at least two proceedings from inception, which involve securing the appointment and qualification of the conservator or guardian of the estate.

(3) Guardianships of the Person. Prior to filing the application and within the past five years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least four guardianship of the person matters or, in the alternative, have participated as a volunteer in a Superior Court Guardianship Clinic on a regular basis. It is suggested that the Applicant have experience in family law custody matters.

(4) Conservatorships of the Person. Prior to filing the application and within the past five years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least four conservatorship of the person matters, including at least two proceedings from inception, which involve securing the appointment and qualification of the conservator of the person.

(5) Limited Conservatorships/Conservatorships for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have comprehension of the legal and medical issues arising out of developmental disabilities and an understanding of the role of the Regional Center.

(6) Estate Planning and Taxation. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have extensive experience in matters regarding estate planning, estate, gift, or income tax or related tax matters pertaining to trusts and decedent estates. The Attorney must have represented parties in at least three substituted judgment (Prob. Code, § 2580 et seq.) or particular transactions matters (Prob. Code, § 3100 et seq.)

(7) Medi-Cal Planning. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least three Probate Code section 3100 petitions, including at least two in which there was a request to increase either the Community/Spouse Resource Allowance and/or increase the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Need Allowance. The Attorney must be familiar with the laws and regulations relating to Medi-Cal eligibility, andspecifically shall be knowledgeable and up to date on the rules regarding the increase of the CSRA/MMMNA, exempt assets, gifting rules, and tax ramifications related to Medi-Cal planning.

(8) Compromises/Judgments and Special Needs Trusts for Minors/Persons with Disabilities. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have represented parties in at least three petitions for approval of compromise under Probate Code section 3500 or Code of Civil Procedure section 372, three of which involved creation of special needs trusts. The Attorney must be familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of the various funding alternatives available under Probate Code section 3600 et seq., and with the application of MICRA to medical malpractice settlements. Applicants may be expected to appear in civil proceedings.

(9) Fiduciary Appointments/Guardians ad Litem. The Attorney must have at least ten years in practice, with recent experience serving as a fiduciary or guardian ad litem.

Warning: Professional Liability Insurance coverage may not cover an attorney who acts as a guardian ad litem or fiduciary. Although professional liability insurance is not a requirement while acting as a guardian ad litem, PVP attorneys may wish to consult their professional liability insurance carrier to determine coverage prior to accepting such appointments.

(10) Evidence Code Section 730 Experts/Referees/Special Masters. The Attorney must have at least ten years in practice, with experience serving as an Evidence Code section 730 expert, or CCP 638 referee or special master. The Applicant also must have substantial expertise in the substantive area of the law involved in the matter.

(11) Health Care Decisions for Adults Without Conservators and Tuberculosis Detention Proceedings/Capacity Determinations. Prior to filing the application and within the past three years, the Attorney must have extensive experience in matters relating to medical treatment and bio-ethical issues. The Attorney must be familiar with Probate Code section 3200 or Health and Safety Code section 121365 proceedings. Because these cases often involve complex treatment issues, the Attorney is expected to become familiar with the medical parameters underlying these issues in order to adequately represent the client’s interests. These cases often involve medical emergencies with complex bio-ethical issues, and may require immediate attorney response.

(b) MCLE Requirements for Specific Areas of Interest. PVP Attorneys must meet the following MCLE requirements for specific area(s) of interest:

(1) Conservators or Guardians of Estate. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas of guardianships/conservatorships during the Applicant’s State Bar reporting period.

(2) Conservatorship of the Person. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas of guardianships/conservatorships during the Applicant’s State Bar reporting period.

(3) Estate Planning and Taxation. The Attorney must have at least ten hours of MCLE in the areas of estate planning and taxation during the Attorney’s State Bar reporting period.

(4) Limited Conservatorships/Conservatorships for Developmentally Disabled Adults. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas of guardianships/conservatorships during the Attorney’s State Bar reporting period, and have attended the Limited Conservatorships PVP Training Program.

(5) Medi-Cal Planning. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas of guardianships/conservatorships during the Attorney’s State Bar reporting period.

(6) Compromises/Judgments and Special Needs Trust for Minors/Incompetent Adults. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas ofguardianships/conservatorships during the Attorney’s State Bar reporting period.

(7) Health Care Decisions for Adults Without Conservators and Tuberculosis Detention Proceedings/Capacity Determinations. The Attorney must have at least three hours of MCLE in the areas of guardianships/conservatorships during the Attorney’s State Bar reporting period.

10.85 ETHICAL GUIDELINES
Court appointed counsel’s (PVP counsel’s) primary duty is to represent the interests of his/her client in accordance with applicable laws and ethical standards. The PVP attorney’s secondary duty is to assist the court in the resolution of the matter to be decided. The PVP attorney must, if practical, ensure that the client is afforded an opportunity to address the court directly.

10.86 PVP ATTORNEY APPOINTMENTS ARE PERSONAL
PVP Attorney appointments are personal and cannot be delegated. Only the panel attorney appointed by the Court may render legal services to the client and appear at the court hearing.

10.87 WRITTEN REPORTS AND COMPENSATION FOR COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEYS
(a) Written Reports. Court-appointed counsel must file a written report with the Court, the report shall include a statement, verified by counsel stating:

(1) That the PVP attorney is an active member of the State Bar of California and no disciplinary actions are pending and none were filed against him/her during the past twelve months.

(2) That the PVP attorney has professional liability insurance coverage in effect with policy limits consistent with the value of the matter being handled.

(3) That the PVP attorney does not, or has not, represented any party to the proceeding, except as otherwise stated in the report. The statement must include the name of the party and a brief explanation. Note: include cases where PVP counsel represents or has represented a private professional conservator.

(b) Compensation for PVP Attorneys. Requests for compensation of court-appointed attorneys should be made as part of the written report filed with the Court or otherwise orally in Court at the hearing.

(1) If the request for compensation is for services in excess of five hours, it must be supported by a written fee declaration and served upon the appearing parties. The request for fees must contain a schedule of services rendered specifying each date, nature of the service rendered, and the time devoted to that service.

(2) The Court appointed attorney will be awarded compensation at a reduced hourly rate, except in cases involving unusual problems requiring extraordinary expertise.

(3) The Court may order the fees to be paid by the estate or party(ies) or, when authorized by statute, by the county to the extent the Court determines the person is unable to pay. A form request for the PACE county-paid compensation may be obtained from the courtroom clerk.

(4) If no court appearance is required of the Court-appointed attorney, a petition for compensation should be filed and set for hearing in the ordinary manner.