Friday, July 06, 2012
The Bernalillo County Probate Court will now be called the Court of Wills, Estates & Probate. “Changing the name will help clarify what we do,” says Judge Willow Misty Parks. “We get a lot of phone calls from folks looking for the probation offices.”
The Court of Wills, Estates & Probate helps members of the public with a wide range of legal matters associated with settling the affairs of a loved one or friend who passes away. “A lot of people are accustomed to automatically going to district court to resolve estate-related matters; we offer many of the same services and our fee is a lot less,” says Parks.
The Court of Wills, Estates & Probate charges a $30 fee to conduct court proceedings that determine outcomes such as who will serve as executor or personal representative over an individual’s estate. District Court charges a $132 fee.
Judge Parks says her office has been actively educating the public about probate matters and how to take advantage of the court’s services. The court has seen an increase in probate cases in recent years.
In 2010 the court had 570 cases, breaking all prior records. In 2011 the court had 612 new cases. More than 60 percent of those using the court represent themselves, "pro se," without an attorney.
Probate and wills cases are only a portion of what the court does. On a yearly basis, the court makes over 8,000 contacts with the public through phone calls, emails and in-person communication. The court staff looks up research requests, sells probate forms packets, makes certified copies, and offers information on the probate process. Many classes take tours of the court. In an effort to make the court files even more accessible to the public and to preserve the historic nature of the court's records, the court is scanning past cases going back to the 1880s.
Judge Parks also performs wedding ceremonies and participates in free legal fairs for low-income families.
The Court of Wills, Estates & Probate is located on the 6th floor of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center at One Civic Plaza, NW. For more information about the court, go to www.bernco.gov/probate-judges-office or call the Court of Wills, Estates & Probate at 505-468-1232.
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