Trusts and Estates Litigation

The firm has deep experience representing trustees, executors, administrators, fiduciaries – both private and professional – and beneficiaries, including large charitable beneficiaries, in the panoply of litigation that arises in the Trusts and Estates area under the Probate Code and other California Codes.  This includes prosecuting and defending:

  • Actions for surcharge and removal of trustees and other fiduciaries
  • Actions for breach of oral contracts to devise property on death
  • Actions contesting the validity of trusts and wills based on lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, forgery, and lack of due execution.
  • Forensic accountings, and accounting disputes
  • Petitions for Instructions
  • Reformation of testamentary instruments
  • Petitions to Compel Distribution of Trust
  • Fee Disputes
  • Partition of Real Property
  • Forensic Document Examination
  • Heirship Determination Petitions
  • Related civil actions, and appeals

Past and Present Representative Cases

  • Represent family-member successor Trustee accused of breach of fiduciary duties by omitted beneficiary
  • Represent professional Trustee in surcharge action by heirs to California tourism landmark
  • Contest of Will procured on deathbed by deceased’s new girlfriend, omitting decedent’s family
  • Contest of Trust Amendment omitting decedent’s family in favor of care-giver
  • Represent live-in friend of elder who was promised inheritance in return for years of home care (secured $1.5 million settlement)
  • Represent nationally-known non-profit organization in replacing National Bank’s Trust Department as trustee in favor of smaller, local, and less expensive, professional trustee
  • Represent California Conservator in Federal Court diversity action for breach of contract
  • Represent Trustee in dispute with co-Trustee and beneficiaries over the ownership of financial accounts
  • Represent beneficiaries of Trust in surcharge action against professional Trustee for excessive trustee fees and other breaches of duty
  • Represent omitted child in case of first impression in California as to application of omitted child statute
  • Represent omitted relatives of decedent in will contest and breach of contract action alleging breach of promise by decedent to leave estate to relatives where decedent instead left estate to charity (obtained $1.7 settlement for relatives)
  • Represent charitable foundation in defending undue influence claim by omitted family member

Sample Appellate Matters

Murphy v. Murphy (2008) 164 Cal.App.4th 376 (wrote successful Petition for Writ of Supersedeas on behalf of Appellant)

Estate of Bartsch (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 885 (represented Appellant)

Grappo v. McKean &McMills LP 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. Lexis 6825 (represented Appellant)

Vargas v. City of Salinas (2009) 46 Cal. 4th 1 (wrote Amicus Curiae brief for Self-Help Counties Coalition in support of respondent City of Salinas on issue of a public entity’s right to provide information to electorate on the potential effects of a ballot initiative)

Barefoot v. Jennings (2020) 8 Cal.5th 822 (former beneficiaries can utilize section 17200 to contest the validity of the trust amendments that removed them as beneficiaries).  Co-author of Amicus Curiae Brief of the Executive Committee of the California Lawyers Association’s Trusts and Estates Section in favor of prevailing petitioner