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Bettison terstate45. Brian Abbiugton, the other Democrat Democrat in the race, had spent $5,535 through Jan, 31, most of it bis own money. The Galveston attorney said he did not expect to be reimbursed from campaign .contributions. He has no billboards. billboards. • Robert Pennan, who is unopposed unopposed in the Republican primary, had spent $1,466 through Jan. 31. Most of that was the $1,200 filing fee and another another $228 was for attending attending a campaign management seminar in Austin. "There's no sense in starting to get into heavy advertising at this stage of the game," said Perman, a League City resident, who works as a briefing attorney at the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. Tm just waiting until the primary primary is over to see who the Democratic Democratic candidate is." A licensed attorney for 36 years, Perman previously held elective office as county attorney in Bastrop County from 1968 to 1974. He was appointed to the post in 1968 and was elected once. Having practiced law in a small town for many years and handled many probate cases, Perman- said he thought he was well suited to be probate judge. "It's a lot of work, but I like the work," Perman said. Tve been fighting in the trenches all these years, and I feel like I've reached the age where Tm qualified to be judge." Bettison said he thought he was the best-qualified candidate for probate judge because he was the only one of-the four who was board certified as a probate attorney. attorney. He was certified in 1987 by the Tfexas Board of Legal Specialization Specialization and was recertified in 1992 and 1997. rTfs been nay-primary practice for 17 years," said Bettison, who is in his first race for elective office. office. Bettison also is a municipal court judge in La Marque and a prosecutor for Hitchcock and Friendswood. Burwell said her four years as probate court investigator made her uniquely qualified to be probate probate judge. "Since the biggest part of the ongoing load is guardianship, itfs important that the judge have a feeling for both sides of the picture," picture," she said. "There is the legal part, but there are also the social parts of what needs to be done for the proposed ward." Before starting to work for the A probate judge's job One of the most basic aspects of a probate judge's jol? is Cie- ferminir^ the validity of wills. This involves making sure tfie will was not forged, that there was no undue influence on the person who made the will, and that the person does not have another will. In most cases, the probating of a will is uncontested.The executor executor of the estate comes to court to ask approval of the will, and nobody argues that the will is not valid or that the person in court is not really the executor. Probate judges also make decisions about what happens to the estates of people who die without wills. A more complicated task for the probate judge — though still often uncontested — is appointing guardians for children or adufts who lack the mental competence to handle their own affairs. affairs. Guardianships must be renewed in coort each year. It is the court's responsibility to make sure the ward's money is kept in federally insured accounts and that there is no malfeasance by the guardian. • One of the four candidates for probate judge in the March 10 primary, Dennis Bettison, is the attorney for Texas first Banks. But he said that would have-no bearing on his work as probate judge if he were elected. , Bettison has also represented trust departments at Nations- Bank^ Moody National Bank and U.S. National Bank. "1 have had relationships with every bank in the county," he said. "They're not looking for any favors from probate court." Probate courts also handle eminent domain proceedings and condemnation orders. Other tasks within the statutory scope of a probate judge's job include juvenile crime cases and family law matters — divorce, divorce, adoption, termination of birth, parents' parental rights in adoption cases, establishment of paternity, child support and enforcement of parental rights. At present in Galveston County, Judge Susan Baker Olsen hears all of the probate court' s.family law cases. When the county's probate court was established, its name was Probate and County Court of Galveston County. But in the last session of the Legislature, the name was changed to Galveston County Probate Court to reflect the court's current emphasis on probate cases. CAROL CHRISTIAN /The Daily News court, Bur-well, a Ifexas City attorney, attorney, said her practice was mostly probate cases. In her present position, Burwell Burwell said she had both investigative investigative and administrative duties. duties. As an investigator, she visits people who are candidates for guardianship (such as the elderly, the mentally retarded or orphans), orphans), contacts family members, determines what assets the person has, reviews court records and makes recommendations to the judge as to how the person's finances should be handled. On the administrative side, Burwell reviews pleadings before before they go to the judge since many people come to probate court without an attorney. Abbington, a former Galveston County assistant district attorney, attorney, said he had decided to run for a judgeship in April, when Laura Kate Smither was abducted and killed. He said he had the feeling society was out of control when children could not safely go outside by themselves. Although he originally planned to run for County Court At Law No. 2, where C.G. "Trey" Dibrell IH is judge, Abbington said he switched races when he realized that Jones was not seeking reelection. reelection. Tm not saying I could reduce crime as probate judge," Abbington Abbington said. "But it gives me an opportunity to serve." He noted that in the past, the probate court handled some cases involving family law and juvenile juvenile crimes. Abbington said he would restore restore juvenile cases to probate court because dockets in other courts handling juveniles are too crowded. "There are more juvenile cases filed than probate cases," Abbington Abbington said. "Plus, probate court has the advantage of having the probate administrator." Abbington said that in 1987, when he was an assistant district district attorney, he worked on a probate court case that involved certifying a juvenile to be tried as an adult. "It was the first one in years and was a very big deal," he said. "Now it's an everyday thing. We've lost perspective on what kind of behavior to expect from children."