DAYL Coffee with the Probate Court Recap

by Jared Slade

Over fifty attendees packed the recently-renovated courtroom for The Probate Court to attend DAYL’s first “Coffee with the Court” program in 2018.  The Judiciary Committee and Elder Law Committee co-hosted the May 8th event, which featured three presenters: Judge Brenda Hull Thompson, our host as Presiding Judge of The Probate Court and the event’s architect; Judge Lincoln Monroe, C.P.A., Associate Judge for the Dallas County Probate Courts; and Cyndi Holt, a principal at CPI Bonding Company.   Attendees enjoyed Starbucks coffee, Village Baking Co. pastries, and a wide-ranging group discussion.

Judge Monroe opened with a discussion of small estate affidavits.  The oft-used form is frequently incomplete or incorrect, resulting in frustrations for all involved.  Judge Monroe, who estimates he has reviewed approximately 3,000 SAE submissions, highlighted typical errors that result in rejection, such as an applicant’s failure to describe all assets and not just those passing through the estate.  Judge Monroe and Judge Thompson highlighted ethical and practical considerations regarding the form of which attorneys, as officers of the court, must be mindful.  They also tackled considerations about what estates could be addressed by the SAE (hint: look at the Estates Code).

Mrs. Holt addressed bonding in the probate context.  She walked attendees through common documentation, discussed the benefits of pre-approval, and explained considerations that may allow some flexibility in securing a bond for an applicant whose credit score is less than perfect.  She leveraged her 35+ years of surety industry experience to address audience questions about the mechanics of the process.

Judge Hull Thompson closed with a presentation on show cause orders and contempt actions.  Using examples from her experience on both sides of the bench, she explained how counsel can utilize both processes to address difficult situations.  In her fourth coffee with the court program, she reminded many of their law school experiences when a professor would afford students the opportunity to raise their hand to save others from an impending Socratic interrogation (fortunately, numerous attendees spoke up and obviated the concern).

DAYL is appreciative of the time invested by all three panelists and, in particular, Judge Hull Thompson for hosting us.