Probate, Wills and Estate Planning

The attorneys of Brown White & Osborn LLP know that estate planning requires more than simply drafting a will or trust. Our clients depend on us to help them plan and make ultimate decisions that will not only govern how their assets are distributed after death, but more importantly, assure that those assets will be managed during their lifetime.

 

Sound estate planning requires careful financial, tax, medical, and business planning. Whether your estate is modest, or you have created significant personal wealth, the attorneys of Brown White & Osborn can help you plan for the future. Our estate planning attorneys are specialists in wealth management and are ready to provide the most up-to-date estate planning to protect our clients from unnecessary federal and state taxes, as well as expensive and prolonged court proceedings. We are prepared to help you select the will, trust, and power of attorney that suits our clients’ unique needs.

 

Our estate planning attorneys work closely with our client’s financial planners, investment brokers, and accountants. Our goal is to provide an estate plan that not only preserves our client’s wealth, but allows them to develop a careful transfer plan that reflects their family’s values and goals. Our attorneys are recognized experts in planning for business succession, complex tax planning, charitable giving, the creation of foundations or family corporations, and planning through life insurance, which other attorneys often overlook.

 

We understand that many families are planning for long-term care and support of children and adults with special needs. Our estate planning attorneys at Brown White & Osborn are recognized experts in the formation of special needs trusts to provide ongoing financial support and personal care for children and adults with special needs. These trusts allow families to ensure that their loved ones receive the care and support they need without jeopardizing their receipt of public benefits.

 

At Brown White & Osborn, we are committed to a long term relationship with our clients. As changes occur in the federal and state tax laws, or as changes occur with our client’s families or wealth, we are prepared to assist at every step of the way. We have been able to save families tens of thousands of dollars and more through our estate planning and administration practice. Making a small investment now can save your estate money in the future and give you peace of mind.

 

We recognize that our clients are concerned not only about what will happen after their passing, but about what might happen if they become incapacitated. Our attorneys draft powers of attorney for asset management and healthcare, identifying a third party to act on a client’s behalf in case of incapacity.

Last Will and Testament

 

A will is the foundation of any estate plan. It names the individuals or organizations who will receive your assets upon your passing, either through an outright gift or through a trust. It also names the executor, who the court will appoint and supervise to carry out your wishes, including payment of your debts and taxes. If you have minor children, your will also allows you to name who will serve as guardian of your children.

 

Any assets that are in your name alone at the time of your passing are the subject of your will. Exceptions include assets that already have named beneficiaries, including some bank accounts, life insurance policies, tax deferred retirement plans, and IRAs. Any assets that you own with others that you have titled in “joint tenancy” automatically pass to the other owner(s) outside of your will.

 

Probate Court supervision is nearly always required when a decedent’s estate plan only includes a will and not a trust. The attorneys of Brown White & Osborn help clients devise trusts to avoid the time and expense of the probate process. However, the probate process does offer some advantages. The Probate Court reviews the actions of the executor or personal representative to make sure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out and that each step of the administration of the estate is handled correctly. This is particularly advantageous when the selected executor either lacks experience as a fiduciary or is unsure of what steps are necessary to administer an estate. In addition, the Probate Court can be effective in resolving any disputes about the distribution of the assets. While the cost and delay involved in court supervision is generally higher than administration of an estate through a trust, some of our clients want the peace of mind of knowing that their wishes will be carried out through the guidance of the Probate Court.

Revocable Living Trust

 

Brown White & Osborn LLP can help you create a revocable living trust to avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming court proceedings after your passing. With our guidance, you can fund your trust with your assets, administer it during your lifetime, and allow the trust to transfer assets to your beneficiaries when you pass away without the need for any involvement by the court. Since you can name yourself as the initial trustee, you remain in complete control of your assets, and can either change or revoke your trust anytime during your lifetime as long as you remain competent. You will also name a successor trustee (either a person or institution) to manage your trust upon your incapacity or passing.

 

A trust is a valuable tool that ensures that your assets are managed according to your wishes, even when you are unable to manage them yourself. Without adequate estate planning, in the event that you face incapacity, your assets could be subject to a court supervised conservatorship in which the court would appoint someone to manage your affairs. Through your trust, however, your prior instructions guide your successor trustee in managing your assets as you see fit.

 

A trust provides you with the maximum flexibility to plan for the distribution of your assets upon your passing in light of your wishes and pertinent tax considerations. You can give your successor trustee sufficient flexibility to make important decisions regarding the distribution of your estate to minimize unnecessary federal and state taxes.

 

We can assist you in establishing a trust that meets your unique needs, both planning for a time when you need assistance in managing your affairs and carrying out your wishes upon your passing in a creative and cost effective manner.

Powers of Attorney

 

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants authority to another person to act on your behalf on financial issues or for health care decisions. Powers of attorney can be effective at a specific time you choose, or only upon your incapacity. The goal of a power of attorney is to prepare for the unexpected. When you are unable to make decisions, your nominee can carry out your wishes until you are able to do so.

 

A medical power of attorney and an advanced health care directive work in tandem to appoint a person that you trust to serve as your health care agent, and to carefully outline the kind of health care you desire. Additionally, your specific wishes regarding end of life decisions are explicitly stated in your advanced health care directive.

 

At Brown White & Osborn, our experienced estate planning attorneys can assist you in devising powers of attorney that will give you the peace of mind of knowing that should you be unable to handle your own affairs, a trusted loved one or agent can carry out your express wishes.

Administration of Trusts & Probate Estates

 

Our daily practice includes representing individuals and corporate fiduciaries in the administration of a decedent’s estate within the Probate Court or through trust administration. We assist our clients in determining the most efficient and cost-effective way to carry out the wishes of the decedent, and to ensure that the administration of the estate runs smoothly and cost effectively.

 

If a loved one dies without a trust, or if court involvement is either required or desirable, we navigate our clients through the complexities of the Probate Court. Our attorneys are in court daily throughout Southern California. We have an excellent working relationship with court staff, and are familiar with the laws affecting probate administration and our attorneys play a substantial role in the same courts regarding local rules and state regulations. Our goal is to take the stress out of court proceedings for our clients.

 

Trust administration can be daunting. The laws regarding the administration of decedent’s estates through trust administration have become increasingly more complex resulting in frequent litigation. We provide guidance to the trustee or fiduciary regarding the tax and accounting requirements for trust administration, as well as the legal requirements. Our staff is skilled in locating and valuing assets, preparing estate tax returns, and managing unique assets in the trust. Whether the trust includes a complex business that needs to be managed, intellectual property, out-of-state assets, or issues related to the management of a charitable trust or foundation, we can help.

 

At Brown White & Osborn, we are especially sensitive to the needs of the surviving spouse. Losing a loved one is incredibly stressful, and often trust and financial decisions must be made immediately. Our clients depend on us to guide them through the process of trust administration upon the death of their spouse or parent. Allowing us to assist with financial and tax issues related to the trust gives our clients the security to focus on the more important issues of grieving and the rebuilding of their lives, and in many cases, assisting the continuation of a family business.

Conservatorships and Guardianships

 

At Brown White & Osborn, our attorneys are recognized experts in the area of conservatorship and guardianship law. A loved one may be experiencing dementia, or suffering from a disability that either makes them unable to make financial or health care decisions, or leaves them vulnerable to others. A conservatorship can be an effective tool whereby the court appoints someone to make personal decisions and to manage the property of an incompetent person.

 

A guardianship can be effective to protect the interests of a minor. While guardianships are routinely used to protect a minor for a specific purpose, such as during litigation, or to manage a blocked bank account, guardianships are also essential to protect a minor when the minor’s parents are unable to provide care and support. Grandparents and other family members often turn to us to guide them through the court process to establish a guardianship to protect a child.

 

We assist throughout the process of seeking appointment of a conservator or guardian, and provide assistance with the administration of a conservatorship or guardianship. Our attorneys and staff assist the conservator or guardian with all of the paperwork the court requires, including the petitions, reports, and accountings. Moreover, we provide valuable assistance to our clients regarding the care and management of the elderly and disabled. We are well connected with care providers, facilities, elder care experts, and special needs experts to assist our clients in developing an effective and meaningful care plan for their loved one.

 

Not using an experienced attorney who specializes in this area of law could cost the estate millions of dollars and further result in exposure to unnecessary liability to the guardian.

Trusts & Estates Litigation

 

Clients turn to us to seek solutions to problems they encounter in the drafting of wills or trusts, or problems they see in the management of trusts, estates and conservatorships. Probate litigation is a highly specialized field of law, and our attorneys at Brown White & Osborn are uniquely qualified to provide outstanding and superior representation. While other firms rely on attorneys that are primarily estate planners or civil litigators, our probate litigation team consists of trial attorneys with many years of experience handling contested matters in the Probate Court. Our experience in successfully representing clients in probate litigation means that other attorneys and judges often rely on us to handle complex disputes involving trusts, estates, and conservatorships.

 

Finally, our extensive success in the court room regarding contested probate matters means that routinely we are able to avoid or reduce expensive litigation. Our clients often rely on us to achieve their objectives through successful mediation or arbitration before trial.

Elder Abuse Litigation

 

Unfortunately, financial and physical abuse of the elderly occurs all too often. Our elder law litigation practice focuses on representing the elderly and family members who have encountered abuse. While abuse may involve a family member, neighbor, or caregiver, at Brown White & Osborn, we are also prepared to prosecute elder abuse against care facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Our extensive experience in the area of litigation in the Probate Court as well as in civil court means that we can seek remedies or damages effectively in either court.

Leadership in the Area of Probate Law

 

Attorneys at Brown White & Osborn are leaders in the field of probate law. Several of our attorneys are Certified Specialists by the State Bar of California in the area of Trusts and Estates. Our attorneys serve on the boards of the California Conference of State Bar Associations, and are in leadership positions with the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the San Bernardino County Bar Association. Our attorneys are frequently asked to lecture on probate matters by the California State Bar, local Bar Associations, as well as community groups. Our attorneys routinely assist in the creation of new legislation in the area of probate law in Sacramento.

 

Our team has written extensively in the area of probate law, including contributing to the CEB publication on Guardianships, as well as training materials presented to probate attorneys and new conservators through local Bar Associations.

A Sampling of Representative Cases:

 

  • Successfully prosecuted unscrupulous financial planner and real estate investor who convinced several elderly homeowners to transfer title to their home in exchange for financial planning.
  • Achieved favorable settlement for a widow who brought a will contest against her husband’s children who procured a new will a day before her husband died.
  • Successfully prosecuted a caregiver for financial elder abuse who married an elderly man suffering from end-stage Alzheimers.
  • Represented beneficiaries of a multi-million dollar trust against an incompetent trustee resulting in a substantial monetary settlement and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees incurred.
  • Represented elderly woman in conservatorship action where family members attempted to impose conservatorship in order to gain control of her estate.
  • Numerous appointments by the Probate Court to represent minors and dependent adults recover assets that have been stolen by unscrupulous individuals.
  • Frequently represent the elderly in capacity hearings, such as in conservatorship proceedings.
  • Frequently represent family members seeking mental health conservatorships for loved ones, and represent individuals facing mental health issues.
  • Represent banks, financial institutions, and professionals in the administration of special needs trusts, conservatorships, and probate estates.
  • Represented successor trustee and beneficiary prosecute former Trustee for mismanagement and personal enrichment through complex multi-million dollar real estate development.
  • Successfully defended beneficiaries of estate against wrongful death action.
  • Represented administrator of intestate probate estate involving more than 50 beneficiaries located throughout the United States.
  • Represented administrator in probate estate where note handwritten in family Bible was deemed a Will of the decedent.
  • Represented an out of state bank as a creditor in probate proceeding where main assets of estate were shares in corporation which were the subject of California bankruptcy proceeding.
  • Represented successor trustee in recovering assets that were outside of the United States in foreign held corporations.
  • Successfully represented a minor in appointing a guardian of the person and creating a multi-million dollar special needs trust to provide for the care of the minor.
  • Successfully represented a father in a custody battle that resulted in obtaining a heart transplant for a new born baby.
  • Represented an administrator in a probate estate in locating more than $3 million in missing assets held in various names going back three generations.
  • Represented numerous administrators in probate estates involving the wrap-up and sale of professional practices and large business enterprises.
  • Represented numerous clients with complex estate planning issues including: Limited Liability Corporations (LLC); Family Limited Partnerships (FLP); Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT); and Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT).
  • Represented administrator of intestate probate estate involving high-profile construction business that was the subject of bankruptcy proceedings. Case also involved a guardianship of dependent minors.
  • Redrafted annually sub-trusts to accommodate gifting and re-allocation of stock in various offshore companies.
  • Represented Trustors in a multi-million dollar transfer of wealth over a 10 year period.