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Appealing Your Trust or Will Lawsuit: Special rules for appeals in probate court

So you want to appeal your Bay Area Trust or Will lawsuit after trial? In the normal world of civil lawsuits, the rules for when you must appeal are fairly easy to maneuver because it is based on the entry of the judgment and there is only one judgment.

In Trust and Will lawsuits, however, there can be multiple petitions filed, each with their own order or judgment, and interim orders entered along the way. Knowing when and how to appeal can be tricky. And missing an appeal deadline stops you from ever seeking review of that order.

Luckily the California Probate Code provides a set of rules for appealing orders on Trust, Will (probate), Conservatoship and Guardianship matters. The rules are found at Probate Code section 1300 to 1312.

For example, Section 1300 states that an appeal can be taken from the making of, or refusal to make, any of the following orders:

(a) Directing, authorizing, approving, or confirming the sale, lease, encumbrance, grant of an option, purchase, conveyance, or exchange of property.

(b) Settling an account of a fiduciary.

(c) Authorizing, instructing, or directing a fiduciary, or approving or confirming the acts of a fiduciary.

(d) Directing or allowing payment of a debt, claim, or cost.

(e) Fixing, authorizing, allowing, or directing payment of compensation or expenses of an attorney.

(f) Fixing, directing, authorizing, or allowing payment of the compensation or expenses of a fiduciary.

(g) Surcharging, removing, or discharging a fiduciary.

(h) Transferring the property of the estate to a fiduciary in another jurisdiction.

(i) Allowing or denying a petition of the fiduciary to resign.

(j) Discharging a surety on the bond of a fiduciary.

(k) Adjudicating the merits of a claim made under Section 850.

The code goes on the state specific rules for Trust, probate, conservatorship and guardianship actions.

This list is helpful for you to determine when an order becomes “final”. For example, an order confirming the sale of real estate will be final as to that sale, but the overall probate case may still be ongoing. Normally, an entire lawsuit must be complete before appealing. But under Section 1300, you have the right to appeal the final sale order even while the probate continues.

This is good and bad. On the good side, it allows you to apply for an appeal earlier than you normally would do so. On the bad side, it sets the timeline to appeal in motion before the entire case is over, so you have to file your notice of appeal and go through the motions earlier than you normally would.

Whatever you do, next time you are unhappy with a Probate Court’s decision, check out the appeal rules under Section 1300 and determine your next step from there.