Estate of SanchezAnnotate this Case
When Frank died, Leslie, his daughter, was appointed as executor and personal representative of the estate, Independent Administration of Estates Act (Prob. Code, 10400). In his will, Frank confirmed his surviving spouse’s (Caroline’s) interest in their community and quasi-community property, and bequeathed all of his separate property, plus his one-half interest in their community and quasi-community property, to his three children, explicitly disinheriting Caroline, who is not their mother. Leslie, on behalf of Frank’s estate, filed in propria persona in the probate action a complaint for partition by sale of real property, claiming that Caroline improperly withdrew proceeds from a reverse mortgage and other allegedly fraudulent conduct. Caroline argued Leslie, as the personal representative of Frank’s estate, could not appear in propria persona in that representative capacity.
The probate court granted the motions to strike with leave to amend to give Leslie the opportunity to retain counsel. The court determined that Leslie’s complaint “primarily consists of civil claims typically raised in a civil action. [Leslie], a non-attorney, cannot properly prosecute those claims in propria persona in any venue.” The court of appeal affirmed. Leslie’s complaint is a claim against third parties for the benefit of the estate’s beneficiaries, such that it could not be prosecuted by Leslie in propria persona; her conduct in filing briefs and other pleadings as representative of the estate constituted the unlicensed practice of law.