Gerald Willits died at the age of 76 years old, in Orange County.  Mr. Willits, a plumber, lived a life of solitude, estranged from his daughter and so detached from others that it was several days before anyone discovered his remains.

The rooms in Mr. Willits’ one-story house were piled high with paper, fast-food wrappers and other trash, and were infested with rats.


A will or trust can not only fail to carry out the decedent’s intent, it can actually frustrate the intended estate distribution, and cost the decedent’s loved ones significant time and money, not to mention anguish.

Particularly in an era of online-assisted do-it-yourself legal work, poorly made self-made and cookie cutter wills and trusts abound.


No contest clauses, also known as in terrorem (literally, “in fear”) clauses, are a type of safeguard against will and trust challenges.  Inserted by the testator (the person who made the will) or trustmaker (aka “trustor” or “grantor”), these clauses effectively tell beneficiaries, “if you try to challenge the will/trust, you will lose your share of inheritance.

Probate Litigation

Probate litigation is sometimes necessary to protect the rights of beneficiaries or heirs, potentially due to an unclear or poorly drafted will or due to a dispute among family members. Probate law in California can be complicated and these matters may easily become hotly contested due to emotionally charged issues and legal complexities.

Trust Administration

As Trustee of a trust, you have a duty to administer the trust pursuant to both the trust provisions, and relevant law.

When a trustmaker passes away, several items are put in motion.  While administering a trust estate is significantly easier than administering a probate estate, there are still several steps that must be followed, and laws that must be adhered to.

Valid Wills and Revocation

What constitutes a valid will? Can great Aunt Sally create a valid will by writing “I leave all of my earthly possessions to my cockatiel Cornelius. – Sally” in lipstick, on her vanity mirror? Does it need to be witnessed or notarized? 

A testator (the person making the will) generally must be 18 years old to make a valid will in California, unless they’re an emancipated minor.

Protecting Family Wealth

You may be familiar with the term, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” It refers to the notion that a wealthy estate built up by one generation will have been lost by the third generation. Its English translation is often attributed to American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, but the adage is neither unique to English, nor modern.