Probate judge releases annual report

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 9, 2020

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LANETT — One of the busiest offices in Chambers County government is the office of probate judge. In normal times, there’s much activity in the main office inside the Chambers County Courthouse in LaFayette and even more activity in the Lanett annex, which is in the county’s population center.

Probate Judge Paul Story has released a report showing the kind of traffic these two offices received in calendar year 2019. With both offices currently being closed to the public as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, business activity is proceeding by mail or online.

Story released the report to give citizens an idea of what takes place in the two offices in normal times.

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“When I campaigned for the office of probate judge, I found that there was a fair number of citizens who were not aware of the duties of the probate judge and the various functions of the probate office,” he said. “I feel it is my duty as your probate judge to report to the citizens on what this office is doing. In our promise to be open and transparent I also promised to keep you informed with periodic reports.”

Far and away the busiest activity involved motor vehicle registrations. Most of those registrations take place in the Lanett annex. In 2019, a total of 28,962 motor vehicle registrations took place there. At the same time, a total of 13,434 motor vehicle registrations took place at the courthouse.

Together, both offices processed a total of 52,845 records. Of this figure, 35,651 were handled in the Lanett annex and a total of 18,936 people were served in person. Both offices together served a total of 27,607 people.

In 2019, the probate office handled just under $4.9 million in funds and just under $23,000 in probate fees.

“On a personal note I want to thank our citizens for the tremendous support you gave me in my first year as your probate judge,” Story said. “I also want to thank my chief clerk, Nannette Brooks, and each member of our probate office team in both LaFayette and Lanett. The courthouse staff includes tag clerk supervisor Yolanda Drake-Trice; tag clerks Tela Danford, Stephanie Edmonds, and Elizabeth Abner; driver’s license clerk Chasity Foreman; recording clerk Katina Borders and accounting clerk Kira Wright. The Lanett annex staff includes lead clerk Theresa McDonald, tag clerks Stephen Phillips and Nikki Dobbs, and driver’s license clerk Annie Wright. The staffs in both offices have worked really hard to make sure you get the friendly professional service you deserve. We continually strive to assure your business at the probate office will be as pleasant and efficient for you as possible.”

A lot more takes place in the probate office than vehicle registrations and getting new tags. The duties of the probate judge also includes wills and estates, adoptions, guardianships and conservatorships, mental health involuntary commitment cases, eminent domain/land condemnation cases, change of name and the legitimation of children.

“Many of the judicial functions of the probate office are actually administrative,” Story said. “These duties are judicial because they require a decision by a judicial officer, who in this case is the probate judge. All judicial decisions by the probate judge have the same validity as a general court of law and can be appealed to a higher court. The probate judge has the judicial authority to admit wills to probate, appoint executors and issue letters of testamentary, appoint administrators in intestate estates, as well to replace or remove any of the above.”

“Thank you for allowing me to be your probate judge,” Story said. “If you have any questions concerning this report please contact me at (334) 864-2495. If I, or the probate office, can be of service to you, or if you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.”