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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.

This article is divided into two sections: USING THE CLARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT'S WEBSITE and HOW THE CLARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT WORKS.

USING THE CLARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT'S WEBSITE:

Start by Googling something like, "Clark County, Nevada, Probate Court," or "Clark County, Nevada District Court." What you need to know is:

1) If you get the general county court website, you want to go to DISTRICT COURT and then to FAMILY COURT.

2) If you have a case number to search by, you need to enter the full number, such as, P-15-666666-E. In this example, P means probate; 15 means the case was first filed in 2015; six digits are assigned to the case; and the E doesn't tell you anything but if you leave it out, the website won't recognize the case.

3) If you search by Party name and you don't get the spelling exactly right, you won't find the case.  

4) A successful search can show either the filing of an original will with the court or a probate case with the court. Original wills are filed separately from any petition to probate a will. (A petition to probate a will should include either a file-stamped copy of the original filed in Clark County, Nevada, or a certified copy of a will filed elsewhere.)

5) If your online search reveals a probate case you can click on the case to get the docket sheet which is a list of all filings and actions in the case. However, if you want to read an actual petition or other pleading or read an actual order, you will have to pay to see it. The docket sheet, however, is free.

6) The home page has two lists to click on. The first is called "The District Court Friday Probate Calendar List." The court hears most probate matters on its 9:30 Friday calendar. Starting the preceding Monday the court clerks and the probate commissioner list the cases for Friday and periodically update the status. Typically, by Wednesday afternoon there will be the notation "ok" after the case meaning that if no one objects at the hearing the requested action will be granted. Or there might be a notation stating that something has to be supplied before the requested action will be granted, even in the absence of an objection. For example, there might be the notation, "need debt statement," which means the requested action won't be granted unless a supplement is filed explaining whether the debts of the estate have been paid.

7) The second list is called "District Court Probate Pick-up List." The court logs in all Orders submitted and asked to be signed without a hearing. The list says whether the court has received the order and whether it has signed the order. Or it may state what additional things needs to be supplied before the order can be signed.

8) The home page also has a forms library.

HOW THE CLARK COUNTY PROBATE COURT WORKS:

WHERE IS THE PROBATE COURT?-Presently, the Probate Commissioner who is the "judge" on all probate cases initially and on those that remain uncontested has his office (chambers) at 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas, NV 89101, on the third floor of the Family Court. However, Probate Court hearings are held at the Regional Justice Center, 200 Lewis Ave. in downtown Las Vegas. Presently probate paperwork can be e-filed or filed at either location but orders for the judge to sign should go his chambers at 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas.

A probate case is initiated either by filing a petition.

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. Original wills need to be at 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas. Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration are issued only at 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas.

Typically, when a the initial petition in a probate case is e-filed, it takes anywhere from a few minutes to a couple  of days for the Court to "accept" the petition and assign a case number. The initial acceptance is based on superficial things like the petition is signed and scanned right side up instead of upside down.  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 100 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 100 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."

The Probate Court deserves great praise for the speed with which it handles uncontested  probate matters. The Clark County Probate Court handles uncontested probate matters faster than other courts in Nevada and California.

Unfortunately, the Court lacks sufficient staffing to promptly resolve many contested probate matters. It is not uncommon for contested probate matters to take years to resolve. This is partly due to lack of judicial resources and party due to the fact that contested probate matters can be appealed from the probate commissioner to a district court judge. The Court is working to try and speed up the handling of contested probate cases.