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How Probate Works in Clark County, Nevada

By Jonathan C. Reed

Clark County is Nevada's most populous county and includes Las Vegas, Boulder City, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

A probate case is initiated by filing at the Family Courthouse at 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas, NV. If you are doing an online search to see if a will or probate has been filed it is important to know that you first must go to the Clark County District Court website and then to "Family Court."

Generally all documents must be filed electronically. Lawyers almost always file online from their offices. However, it is possible to take a number and wait to use a scanner in the courthouse to file. There are two common exceptions to the rule that probate papers are filed online. The first is that if there is an original will, the original will must be filed by presenting the original will to the court clerk. When this is done one should bring a copy so that the court clerk will put her file stamp on the will copy. A file-stamped copy of the will is required to be attached to the probate petition. (If one forgets to bring a copy of the will when it is filed, one has to go back to court to request a file-stamped copy.) The second common exception to online filing is that Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary must be taken to the courthouse to be issued.

An initial Petition is filed. Generally, a day or two later the Petition is "accepted" for filing and assigned a case number. Once the case number is assigned the lawyer files a Notice of Hearing on the Petition. All of the common probate hearings are held on Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Typically 50 or more petitions are set for each Friday morning hearing.

Beginning the Monday morning before the Friday Hearing, the Judge (technically the Probate Commissioner) and his judicial assistants review all of the Petitions. The Petitions are put into two categories: Those for which no one has filed an opposition and those in which someone has filed an Opposition. If an Opposition has been filed, the Judge will read the Petition and Opposition and prepare for an oral argument at the Friday Hearing.

If no opposition has been filed, the Judge and staff will review to see that the Petition meets all legal requirements. Typically, if something is missing, a judicial clerk will e-mail the attorney on the Monday or Tuesday before the hearing and allow the attorney an opportunity to supply whatever is missing by Thursday, noon, before the hearing.

Beginning the Monday before the Friday hearing, one can Google, "Approved Probate List, Clark County, Nevada," or something similar and see the Friday calendar. On the left will be the case name. On the right will be either the word, "ok," or some other comment.

The word "ok" means that if no one shows up at the Friday hearing to file an objection, a pre-signed Order approving the Petition will be given out at the Friday hearing. There may be a comment such as "needs proof of ____" which means the Petition will be okay if that missing item is supplied and if no one objects at the Friday Hearing.

Typically there will be 50 or so uncontested Petitions followed by the word "ok" by the time the Friday hearing rolls around. At the Friday hearing the Judge will announce that he will read the Approved List and if anyone has an objection, they should stand when the case name is read and say, "Objection." On many Fridays, no one objects to any of the cases. If a person does object, the Judge tells the Bailiff to pull the pre-signed Order aside. He then tells the person objecting to take a seat and that the matter will be heard with all the other contested matters.

Objections are rare. Once the judge has read all of the cases on the Approved List, the judge tells the attorneys that they can pick up any unobjected to Orders. The attorneys then either take the order downstairs for filing and to get a certified copy or they take the Order back to their office and file the Orders from their office.

Clients often ask me if they should attend the hearing. If there is no reason to expect a contest the answer is that there is no need to attend. If there is a surprise objection, the Judge will accept a request to
delay the hearing until all parties can be present and until the parties can submit their arguments on papers.

Some probate matters are handled without a court hearing. For example, if a person dies and no will is found but there is evidence of a safe deposit box, for example a safe deposit box key was found in the decedent's (dead person's) desk, or a bill for safe deposit was found in the decedent's papers, any interested in party can file what is called an ex parte Petition to see if there is a will in that box. See Safe Deposit Boxes
Another example would be if the legal description of real estate in a Probate Court Order contained a mistake an ex parte Petition would be filed to get an Amended Order with the correct legal description. (Ex Parte means one party can ask the court to do something without giving notice to other parties or interested people.)

Ex parte Petitions are simply delivered to the Court with a proposed Order. The Clark County Probate Court keeps a list of all submitted ex parte matters and their disposition, especially if the proposed Order is ready to be picked up from the Courthouse. To see the list Google, "The District Court Probate Pick-up List, Clark County, Nevada."