Judge Belz served on the Orange County Superior Court Bench for 15 years following 32 years as a trial attorney. During his years as a trial attorney, he handled a wide assortment of personal injury cases to trial and verdict in both state and federal courts. In 2009, he was appointed to the Orange County Superior Court. In January 2010, he was assigned to a family law courtroom where he handled a broad range of family law matters from initial petition to trial. Judge Belz says his five years in family court were some of the most meaningful years of his professional career. He was particularly interested in high-conflict custody and visitation cases and the toxic stress impact those cases have on children. He has written and taught on the subject of toxic stress and children. In 2016, Judge Belz was assigned to a probate courtroom where he handled various probate calendars. He was asked to handle the complex long-cause trust trials with a time estimate of more than 4 days. In the nine years on the probate panel, Judge Belz has handled trust, probate, guardianship, and conservatorship trials. As long-cause trial judge, he has handled 88 trust trials. He has presided over trust trials up to 22 days in length.

Judge Belz strongly believes in settlement. A graduate of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution in December of 2000, Judge Belz began mediating cases during his years as a trial attorney from 2001 to 2009. He has handled several hundred mediations. A trial lawyer by trade, he enjoyed sitting as a bench officer in the long and complicated trust trials but strongly believes, with few exceptions, that every case can and should settle. Judge Belz's extensive trial experience with juries and as a bench trial officer has given him a keen insight into assessing the strengths and weaknesses of cases. Judge Belz understands the importance of patience, persistence, empathy, and trust in the mediation process.

Practice Areas
  • All types of Personal Injury including Wrongful Death
  • Elder Care Law
  • Family Law
  • Maritime & Admiralty
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Probate/Trust & Estate
Hobbies & Interests

Judge Belz has an athletic background, having played high school and college basketball. He has been an avid golfer since high school. He strives to live a healthy personal and professional life by balancing his family, spiritual, and professional life. He is an admirer and student of St.Thomas More, the subject of the 1966 Academy Award-winning best picture, “A Man for All Seasons”.

Legal Career
  • Full-time Neutral, Judicate West (2024-Present)
  • Judge, Orange County Superior Court (2009-2024); Family Law and Probate Departments
  • Partner, Law Offices of Kuhn & Belz (1998-2009); Handled a variety of personal injury cases including vehicular accidents, premises liability, government liability, excessive force and police shootings, product liability, medical malpractice, elder abuse, and federal maritime cases.
  • Sole Practitioner, Law Offices of David L. Belz (1995-1998)
  • Partner and Managing Attorney, Law Offices of Landgren & Belz (1981-1995)
  • Partner, Law Offices of Giles, Callahan, McCune, Willis & Edwards (1976-1981)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • J.D., Pepperdine University School of Law (1975)
  • B.A., California State University, Fullerton (1972)
  • Mediating the Litigated Case, Straus Institute, Pepperdine University School of Law (2000)
  • Family + Probate Law Committees, Judicial Council’s Center for Judicial Education and Research
  • Judicial Council’s Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee
  • Teaching Faculty, Training for judges newly appointed to probate and family law courts
  • Orange County Trial Lawyers, Board Member (1990-1994; 1999-2009)
  • St. Thomas More Society of Orange County, Founding Member and President (1994-2004)
Achievements & Awards
  • St. Thomas More Society Award (2002)
  • J. Reuben Clark Law Society Award -Service, Personal Integrity & Professional Excellence (2018)
Below is a sampling of the various probate matters Hon. David L. Belz, Ret. presided over on the bench.

Estates/Trusts

  • Estate of Odalmira Alcala (2019-010165038). This was a Will contest case involving allegations that decedent, an 81 year old family matriarch, lacked testamentary capacity to make a Will (PC 810 + PC 6100.5) and was unduly influenced with secrecy by a family member (W&I 15610.70). The case involved an understanding of medical conditions that would impact capacity to understand the nature of the testamentary act.
  • Cummins v Adams (2014-00746965). This case involved a failure to allocate to a sub-trust by surviving spouse and trustee, failure to account, breach of fiduciary duty, improper gifting to a special needs trust, and imposition of constructive trust. PC 16000 et seq as to fiduciary duties of trustee, PC 16420 as to surcharge powers of the court. PC 16461 as to trustee relief from liability. The case was affirmed on appeal except as to appointment of successor trustee.
  • In the Matter of Becerra Family Trust, dated August 8, 2000 (2018-01001082). This was an 11-day trial with allegations of undue influence (W&I 15610.70), lack of contractual mental capacity PC 810-812 and PC 850 relief. The case involved competing experts on mental capacity and the St Louis University Mental Status Examination.
  • In re the Matter of The Judy Yu-The Chang Trust, dated June 14, 1985. This was a trial on the reasonableness of a trustee’s attorney fees pursuant to PC 17211.
  • In re the Matter of The 2016 Dama Claire Chasle Trust, as Restated and Amended (2018-01040548). This was an 8-day trial with dual petitions. The issues were PC 17200 question as to validity of a trust; PC 850 and 859 for return of property and double damages; PC 15642 request for removal of trustee and PC 6100.5 and Anderson v Hunt (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 722 as to testamentary capacity. The case also involves care custodian caregiver presumption issues pursuant to PC 21362 and 21380.
  • In re The Conklin Trust (2017-00910145). This case was a Petition seeking an order from the court to compel sale of a $4,500,000 house in Corona Del Mar. This case had Civil Code section 1625 parol evidence issues relating to an Order and Stipulation; PC 16080 as to the duty of the trustee to exercise discretionary powers reasonably and PC 16081 which directs to the trustee to act in accordance with the purposes of the trust.
  • In re the Matter of Debra J. Dismuke Family Trust (2015-00772734). The court made findings on a Petition for Instructions for Determination of Entitlement of Trust Asset and Trust Accounting pursuant to PC 17200. The issue in the case involved a power of attorney given by Settlor to a success trustee to disclaim an IRA asset. The code section involved were PC 4264 covering acts where there is express authorization in a power of attorney to act.
  • In the Matter of the Declaration of Trust of Harriet O. Enderle (2014-00736530). This case was a history book on Enderle Center in Tustin. The case involved allegations of breach of fiduciary duty by the trustee stemming from a ground lease and agreement for distribution of revenue with a request for removal of trustee pursuant to PC 15642. Petitioners were income beneficiaries under an irrevocable trust established by Harriett Enderle. The probate codes at issue were PC 16040, Trustee standard of care; PC 16400, liability of trustee to a beneficiary; PC 16401, 16402 and 16403 and for damages against a trustee pursuant to PC 16440.
  • In re the Matter of Estate of Gomez (2015-773010). This case involved PC 850 issues relating to intestate distribution of community and separate property. PC 100 on community property rights upon the death of a spouse and PC 6401 and the intestate share of a surviving spouse.
  • In re the Matter of The Ernest S. Gotthardt and Cam Tu Gotthardt Living Trust, dated December 3, 1999 (2019-01091486). The petition in this case sought findings of financial elder abuse (PC 15610.30); breach of fiduciary duty (PC 16002, 16003, 16004 and 16440); removal of trust (PC 15642), breach of fiduciary duty as trustee de son tort; return of real estate pursuant to PC 850, 856 & 857; double damages pursuant to PC 859; prejudgment interest pursuant to PC 16440 and finding that respondent predeceased the settlor pursuant to PC 259.
  • In the Matter of The Irene Hanna Family Trust, dated April 16, 2013 (2020-01146674). This case involved a novel issue of Statute of Frauds pursuant to Civil Code 1624 and Trust provisions that were argued to violate the statute of frauds. The court ruled the Trust is the controlling document as to trust assets.
  • In re the Matter of The Itow Family Trust, dated November 22, 2017 (2018-01027543). This case involved allegations of financial elder abuse, undue influence, PC 259 disinheritance and PC 859 double damages and attorney fees pursuant to W&I 15657.5.
  • In re the Estate of Keum Soo Kim (2018-00993898). This petition sought relief for fraud (CC 1571, 1709, 1710)), conversion, cancellation of instruments, declaratory relief, unjust enrichment, financial elder abuse (W&I 15610.70)
  • In re the Matter of The Krug Family Trust, dated August 1, 1980, as Amended and Restated (2014-00732389). The Petition challenged the validity of a restatement of a trust allegedly executed as the result of undie influence and asked the court for Instructions pursuant to PC 17000 and 17200 to convey property to a trust.
  • In the Lough v Lough trust trial, the court was asked to make findings on allegations of fraud, for specific performance of a contract to make a will, for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and for wrongful taking of trust property. The petition requested relief pursuant to PC 850, 859, PC 9150 and W&I 15610.30.
  • In the Masters Living Trust case the court made findings on a petition seeking removal of a trust, on allegations of insufficient accounting with a request for attorney fees pursuant to PC 17211, for suspension of trustee pursuant to PC 15642 and for declaratory relief.
  • In the Merrill Trust case, (2015-00815425) the court was asked to make findings of breach of trust pursuant to PC 16000, 16002, 16003, 16004 and 16420. The petition also sought an order for constructive trust and for damages and attorney fees.
In late 2022 through 2023, Judge Belz was my trial judge in a contentious long cause trial involving substantial misappropriated trust assets, including real estate, by a trustee who was also the eldest of five adult siblings. This betrayal by a family member extracted an emotional toll from his siblings, who were our clients. Navigating many difficult issues, Judge Belz ran the trial expertly to its conclusion, extending grace to both counsel along the way, and ultimately awarded judgment for our clients. At two key points during the trial, however, he held sidebars with counsel to discuss potential settlement avenues the parties had not considered, demonstrating his considerable experience, wisdom and ability not only as a trial judge but also a mediator. Judge Belz’ presence and ability on the bench will be missed, but I am pleased he is continuing to work in the law as a private mediator and would highly recommend him particularly for complex trust and probate cases.
- Partner and Experienced Trust Litigator
Judge Belz exudes a skilled understanding of human dynamics and a commitment to fairness. In this regard, he is nothing short of exceptional. I tried a complex 20-day trial before him with claims of financial elder abuse, fraud, undue influence, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty. His attention to detail and dedication to considering all evidence and provision of well-reasoned opinion is unwavering. Based upon my experience with him in court, it was an easy decision to seek him out as a neutral mediator to help resolve complex trust cases on behalf of my clients. In every interaction, he exudes professionalism, integrity, and a genuine desire to help parties find common ground. I wholeheartedly recommend him as a mediator. His years of experience on the bench, coupled with his objective approach makes him a welcome new asset to the field of alternative dispute resolution for trust and related disputes.
- Shareholder/Trial Attorney at a Top-Rated Trust and Estate Firm in Orange County
I have appeared countless times over the years and had numerous trials with Judge Belz, while he was on the Probate bench. I found him thoroughly engaged and interested in focusing on the core issues presented in those cases. Judge Belz was always mindful of and encouraged counsel and the parties to explore the benefits of creative resolutions before trial and the flexibility that settlement offered versus a judgment after trial. While this approach is particularly helpful in trust and estate matters, it clearly applies to other litigated matters as well.
- Senior Partner Specializing in Trust & Estate Litigation with Over 35 Years of Experience
On the bench, Judge Belz demanded professionalism from all before him and encouraged cooperation and resolution. What sets Judge Belz apart from other judicial officers is that he handled some of the most complex cases, usually with multiple parties being represented by multiple lawyers. He truly cared about the litigants and preserving the integrity of the judicial system. He listened closely to the evidence, and made thoughtful inquiries so that he could get to the heart of the matter. Having been a seasoned and successful advocate prior to joining the bench, he understands the difficulties lawyers and their clients face from the other side of the bench. These skills make him extraordinarily valuable as a mediator as he has the experience necessary to bridge the gap for litigants.
- Litigation Attorney, Specialized in Probate Matters
Judge Belz was exceptional on the bench- pragmatic and smart. Strong background in family law, probate and child psychology, which helped move my cases forward. He validates and hears the parties, but reminds them of the big picture to help them make choices to achieve the right outcome. He will be a tremendous asset to private mediation.
- Managing Partner at an Esteemed Estate Litigation Firm
I have appeared before Judge Belz during all of the years he was an Orange County Superior Court Probate Judge. He has many years of experience in trust, conservatorship, and probate matters and has tried many cases in these areas. I’ve had settlement conferences and trials before him. He also was gracious in consenting to be a speaker at several Orange County Bar Association Conservatorship and Protective Proceedings section presentations over the years on many different topics. I found Judge Belz to always be well informed, patient, an excellent listener and a problem solver with innovative solutions.
- Orange County-Based Trust and Estate Attorney
Judge Belz approaches each case with sincerity, thoughtfulness, professionalism, and civility. He works tirelessly with litigants to move forward with solutions without spending unproductive going back over the past. He goes above and beyond to listen to each party and make them feel heard and understood. Litigants would be lucky to have Judge Belz serve as their mediator!
- Specialized Elder Law Attorney
Hon. David L. Belz, Ret.
Based in Orange County | Available in Southern California
Mediation Case Manager: Puja LaQuay (Jatwani)
Arbitration/Private Judging Case Manager: Valerie Cano