Judge Chris Wilmoth of Dallas County Probate Court No. 2 opened his courtroom on August 15, 2013 to educate a lucky number of DAYL attorneys. From 8:00 -9:00 a.m., Judge Wilmoth taught a crash-course on probate that was as fine as any one hour CLE that this young lawyer has ever attended that included the following discussion points:
- How do I get to probate court? This is a complicated topic, but generally, probate courts have jurisdiction over Probate cases, Guardianship issues (including mental illness cases) and “Related Proceedings.”
- Can I get a jury trial in probate court? Yes, often they are special settings.
- What do I do if a party to a civil case dies? It depends on the party, the court, and the phase of the proceedings but in some circumstances there is a procedure to file a suggestion of death and have the court issue a writ of scire facias to allow the suit to proceed.
- What happens if my client (or another party) loses capacity? It depends. You need to be familiar with the applicable ethical rules and statutes. As a practical matter, you can talk to other experienced lawyers about the particular situation.
- Do probate courts declare missing people dead? Sometimes. Probate courts do have jurisdiction to determine the fact, time, and place of death.