Court of Appeal reverses probate court order dismissing GMSR’s client’s petition for failure to file a creditor’s claim

Novak v. Fay (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 329 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five) [published]. GMSR’s client, an attorney, agreed to represent a husband under a contingent-fee arrangement in a suit against the estate of his late wife on a pretermitted-heir theory. In a settlement, the husband received a 40% share of the late wife’s trust. Then, the husband died. The attorney petitioned the probate court to enforce the lien created by his contingency-fee agreement against the trustee of the late wife’s trust. Notwithstanding Probate Code section 9391, which states that lienholders don’t have to file creditor’s claims, the probate court denied the petition on the basis that the attorney had failed to file a creditor’s claim in the husband’s probate estate. On appeal, GMSR overcame the trustee’s argument that the attorney had no valid lien and successfully argued that section 9391 applies. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed with directions, finding that the only task left for the probate court is to determine the value of the attorney’s lien.