California court backlogged from COVID

Like other court systems across the country, the California court system has experienced delays and a backlog in both criminal and civil cases. In fact, 1.4 million fewer cases were resolved from March 2020 through August 2020 than during that same period in 2019, according to a report compiled by the administration of the state’s judicial branch.   

Thousands of cases have gotten “hung up” in the backlog due to COVID, and the delays have had a significant impact on the timelines for rendering decisions in pending civil lawsuits, child support and custody battles, and estate settlements as well as in criminal cases.

California’s top judicial officers issued over 400 emergency orders and rules that granted courts more flexibility as to where hearings could be held using remote tools such as Zoom as well as extending certain trial deadlines.

However, caseloads continued to put a tremendous strain on all parts of the judicial system, statewide. As Deborah Chang, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, put it, “Justice has not shut down. Justice has slowed down.”

Will your case be affected?

If you are the executor of an estate, there are several steps in the probate process that you have to complete before you can transfer any assets to the beneficiaries. The timelines for settling an estate can vary, but, in general, a simple estate may be settled in six to eight months; a more complicated estate could take up to three years to fully settle. 

It’s always in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries to get the probate process started as soon as possible because the estate will continue to accrue taxes whether or not the will and probate petition have been filed.

With all of the delays in California courts and the backlog of cases due to the first round of COVID in 2020, and with a surge of new COVID cases due to the Delta variant, you may have good cause for concern about the timeline for settling the estate of which you are the executor.

As of August 31, 2021, the San Diego County Superior Court released the following statement, “The San Diego Superior Court has restored additional in-person access in the wake of updated state and local public health guidance that allows for the relaxing of certain COVID-19 safety protocols. Public access has generally reverted to pre-pandemic levels while many of the recently introduced online and remote options remain available. Facial coverings are required for all people entering the courthouses, regardless of vaccination status.”

The statement goes on to say that the San Diego court system that the court is still expecting that it will take a significant amount of time for them to get through the backlog of cases, including criminal and civil cases, by the end of the year.

Best advice, contact your attorney.

Your best option

If you need to discuss this or other estate issues with an attorney, contact the Law Office of David W. Foley, San Diego probate attorney. While we are available for in-person appointments at our office, we can also assist you remotely via a video conference.