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Sean McKissick provides strong and effective legal assistance throughout all stages of trust and estate disputes. Sean has extensive experience across a wide variety of litigation areas and industries in addition to trust and estate work, including healthcare, real estate, civil rights, and white-collar criminal defense. (Read more...)

For centuries, serious legal scholars have debated what is possibly the most vital question of our times: in what ways, if any, does our judicial system differ from basketball? Now, thanks to the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Haggerty v. Thornton (2024) 15 Cal.5th 729, we finally have an answer.

Longtime readers of

As a child, your parents, teachers, and/or some other adult influence probably sat you down and recounted Aesop’s classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. “Slow and steady wins the race,” they told you. The slow, methodical, and thoughtful tortoise would always win out over the fast-paced, impulsive hare.

Well, you’re a grown-up now

I am not an expert on Zen Buddhism.  However, even if I had spent decades of my life studying its tenets (instead of, for example, baseball stats from the 1920’s), I would hesitate to call myself an expert because of what would be my resulting adherence to shoshin, the Zen Buddhist concept of

It’s the Halloween season, a time when most of us spend a more-than-reasonable amount of time focusing on the spookier side of things: ghosts, goblins, small children dressed like jack-o-lanterns, suspiciously foggy and cobwebbed mansion estates, etc.

Not me, though. I’m the timid type: I don’t like scary movies, I always turn the lights on

There are a few standard questions I almost always get when people find out that I work in probate litigation. “Do people call you right away when their relatives die?” “Isn’t that tough to deal with, emotionally?” And most frequently, “What can I do to make sure no one challenges my estate plan after I

We’ve been your dogged reporter on the ever-growing logjam in the Courts of Appeal on trust modification procedure. We’ve followed the twists and turns that courts have taken as they’ve tackled the question of what happens when a trust amendment complies with statutory amendment requirements, but fails to follow the trust’s own specified amendment procedure. We’ve zigged with Pena v. Dey, zagged with Haggerty v. Thornton, and zigged right back again with Balistreri v. Balistreri.

The California Supreme Court is poised to provide a definitive answer. It granted review in Haggerty v. Thornton and the case was fully briefed as of July 20, 2022. Hence, it seemed that the Courts of Appeal might sit on any new cases dealing with the issue and await the Supreme Court’s decision.

Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

This blog has devoted a lot of real estate to the use of anti-SLAPP motions in California trust and estate litigation. Though the courts’ treatment of such motions is varied and oftentimes unpredictable, Californians can generally rely on the anti-SLAPP statute to strike any meritless cause of action that seeks to hold them liable for engaging in constitutionally protected activity. Traditionally, this has meant absolute protection for the pursuit of litigation, and specifically for funding litigation.

But for trustees, the Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Starr v. Ashbrook (2023) 87 Cal.App.5th 999 means that such protection may not be quite so absolute after all. It turns out that there is a fine line between “engaging in constitutionally protected activity” and “wasting and mismanaging trust assets.”

Operators of skilled nursing facilities want their patients to enter into arbitration agreements.  While such agreements don’t eliminate the risk of litigation, they at least reduce the expense and exposure associated with potential jury trials.

California appellate courts, however, have taken an ever narrower view of who can sign arbitration agreements on behalf of patients.  Just

Another day, another decision by the California Court of Appeal making it more difficult for residential care facilities for the elderly (“RCFEs”) to enforce their arbitration agreements.

Upon admission to virtually any RCFE, a new resident will be asked to sign a stack of documents including an agreement to submit any future dispute to arbitration.