Probate judge to seek full term

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Y. Ellen Hong strives to give back to the community

By Carol A. Clark

Three months into the job and Y. Ellen Hong said she thoroughly enjoys the work and definitely wants to be elected to a full term as Los Alamos County probate judge.

“It is what I expected and I find it interesting and a good fit with my background and abilities,” Hong said. “I also feel this is an opportunity to do public service. I’m semi-retired and had been looking for a way to serve the community when this position became available.”

Last fall, the County Council appointed Hong, a certified public accountant, to fill the probate judge vacancy created when Janet Foster resigned following her appointment to county clerk. The county clerk vacancy occurred after Mary Pat Kraemer resigned in August, citing pension issues.  

A probate judge is the judicial official in charge of overseeing all aspects of probate estates within a jurisdiction. The role varies in the administration of an estate based on whether a decedent died testate or intestate, whether or not the personal representative, heirs and beneficiaries named in a will get along and whether anyone contests the will.

Hong has studied the probate code and she participated in a mid-winter probate conference last week in Santa Fe.

“I’d like to continue this work. My predecessor has been very helpful and the people here in the clerk’s office are just wonderful to work with,” she said.

The county clerk and staff serve as clerks to the probate court.

The Office of the Probate Judge is located within the County Clerk’s Office in a modular building near the Justice Center.

The probate judge examines all applications for probate of estate, appointment of personal representative, examines all wills and documents filed in the case, signs orders of appointment of personal representatives and signs certificates closing estates.

Under the county charter and state law, any qualified person over the age of 18 and a resident of the county may serve as probate judge. The position pays a token $3,505 per year.

Hong holds a biology degree from The University of California at Berkeley and an accounting degree from San Jose State University. She is a CPA in California and New Mexico.

Hong has been married 45 years. She first met her husband, Jung Hong, in junior high school in Monterey, Calif. They met again on the UC Berkeley campus. “We became engaged a year later and married in 1965. We moved to Los Alamos and my husband worked at the laboratory,” she said. “Our children went through the Los Alamos school system.”

The couple’s children include 1984 Los Alamos High School graduate Steven Hong, 43, who is a software engineer for Microsoft in Seattle and Sumi Hong, 41, a 1987 LAHS graduate who does fundraising for UC Davis.

Jung retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory to start his own software company, which the couple ran for 20 years before semi-retiring in 2008. They live in White Rock.