Probate Section Report
by
Larry E. Ciesla

The probate section continues to meet on the second Wednesday of each month. Following are some issues discussed during recent meetings.

Larry Ciesla and Evan George announced the relocation of their practice to their new office located at 4400 NW 23rd Avenue, Suite A, Gainesville, Florida 32606. Same phone number 352/378-5603; new fax number 352/378-5604. New emails: lCiesla@larryciesla-law.com and evan@evangeorge-law.com.

Long-time section member Steve Graves announced the sale of his law practice and impending retirement. Angela Bounds will be gradually taking over Steve's practice beginning in January 2009. Steve will remain as her mentor and consultant throughout the rest of the year, after which she will, for the most part, be flying solo. Steve will be retiring to a home he recently purchased in St. Augustine to pursue the important things in life: fishing and (Alabama) college football. Note to Steve: better luck next year.

Judy Paul announced her departure from her staff attorney position at the courthouse to take Karen Yochim's place at Rick Knellinger's office. Karen is taking some time away from lawyering to have a couple of children; after which she intends to rejoin the ranks. Judy will be sorely missed. She had an unmatched talent for handling all situations, including the occasional hotly contested dispute, with a certain grace and elegance rarely seen in these parts. Initial reports from Judy indicate she is working hard and learning quickly. It is rumored that she has of late become extremely interested in a complex legal application sometimes known as "home cooking" and that she is assembling a collection of anecdotes on the subject. Send yours to her at judithrmk@bellsouth.net.

Nancy Moses and Mary Grace Curtin from Buddy Irby's office attended the December 2008 meeting to discuss the current state of affairs regarding the court system's collective budget woes. The main problem is lack of staff attorneys. Due to the current hiring freeze, departing staff attorneys cannot be replaced. At this point, there are no full-time probate/guardianship staff attorneys. For the most part practitioners should proceed as they did before the advent of staff attorneys, at least for the time being. One thing the clerk's office has done to help out is to set up a special email address for assisting lawyers with locating files. The address is: filelocation@alachuaclerk.org. To help move things along quicker, mail for the clerk should be addressed to the clerk at P.O. Box 600, Gainesville, Florida 32602-0600 and not to the courthouse's street address. All street mail is first delivered to Ted McFetridge's office, thereby building in a delay before the mail is ever received in the clerk's office. The clerk's LINDAS website has been hugely successful. If you have not yet done so, you may sign up by contacting Mary Grace or Nancy. There is a one-time registration fee. Thereafter images of everything in the court file in a case in which you file a notice of appearance (except certain specific items such as inventories and accountings) become available for viewing, downloading and printing online.

For those cases where you have not filed a notice of appearance, the clerk's docket sheet is available, without images of the individual documents.

During the January 2009 meeting, Judges Monaco and Roundtree continued the discussion begun at the December meeting regarding budget woes. Judge Roundtree explained the bottom line is that the court system must now do more work (for example, each judge has 500 new mortgage foreclosure cases) with less resources (little or no staff attorney assistance). Everyone will need to be a little more patient. The judges will nevertheless always be available to deal with any urgencies that may arise. Matters such as issuance of letters of administration may be expedited by filing the necessary initial paperwork with the clerk; obtaining a case number; obtaining file-stamped copies from the clerk; and then hand delivering proposed orders directly to the judge's chambers. It will be helpful if the lawyers all take extra care to ensure that all i's have been dotted; all t's have been crossed; and all required papers have been filed. The judicial assistants will be using the probate and guardianship checklists posted online. Lawyers can use the same checklists; save everyone time and effort; and obtain quicker relief. Stay tuned for more details in this regard.

All interested practitioners are invited to attend the probate section meetings. There are no dues. Nobody takes roll. We meet on the second Wednesday of each month at 4:30 in the 4th floor meeting room in the civil courthouse.

 
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