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

Earlier this month, a Michigan jury considered whether handwriting in a spiral notebook found under a couch cushion at singer Aretha Franklin’s home constituted her valid last will.  Franklin had written and signed the four-page document, and dated it “3/31/14,” but it was not signed by any witness.  A six-person jury deemed the 2014 will

Independence Day invites reflection on another form of freedom.  How do we respect the autonomy of California’s elders who experience progressive forms of dementia while protecting them from potential abuse and other harm?  Elders want to develop new relationships, remain in their homes, and drive their cars.  Loved ones may question those choices.

We’ve blogged

Typewritten wills in California generally require the signatures of two witnesses to be found valid, but the harmless error rule can save the day. Probate Code section 6110(c)(2), as recently discussed, provides that a will not properly executed may be admitted to probate if the proponent “establishes by clear and convincing evidence that, at the time the testator signed the will, the testator intended the will to constitute the testator’s will.”

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.

We often see siblings litigate in California over the allocation of tangible personal property held in the family trust. When Mom and Dad have passed, the tug of war may involve jewelry, paintings, photos, firearms, furniture, saddles, vehicles, table settings – and yes, even a bobble head!

My colleague Kim McGhee recently hosted a fun