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:

  1. 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.”
  2. Can I get a jury trial in probate court? Yes, often they are special settings.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. Do probate courts declare missing people dead? Sometimes. Probate courts do have jurisdiction to determine the fact, time, and place of death.
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