Downey Brand LLP

Zachary Young is a private professional fiduciary with CMY Fiduciary Services in Sacramento.  His mother, Carolyn M. Young, began work as a fiduciary in 1986.  Zach received his bachelor’s degree in business and communications at Sacramento State University.  Zach joined his mother and sister, Lindsay Bowman, in the fiduciary business.  In 2012, he received his fiduciary license from California’s Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. As he looks forward to continuing to help families with trusts, probate administrations, and conservatorships, Zach shared his thoughts with Trust on Trial. What led you to join the family fiduciary business? I always wanted to be a…
When Dad bought a house solely in his name, can Stepmother claim a community property interest after Dad has died? Perhaps yes. The answer lies at tricky intersections of California probate law and family law. While family law governs spouses during their lifetimes and upon divorce, the death of one spouse complicates the picture. In Estate of Wall (2021) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled that the form of title presumption prevailed over the community property presumption, and yet the surviving spouse still prevailed on a theory of spousal undue influence. Meet the…
California trust disputes often involve allegations that trustees should be removed and suspended because they are acting improperly or have conflicts of interest. Attorney Denise Chambliss, author of an informative article on trustee removal, spoke with me on Trust Me!, the podcast of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association.  Joining us was Retired Judge Marshall Whitley, who handled many a trust dispute as an Alameda County Superior Court judge and now works to resolve conflicts as a full time mediator with ADR Services. With apologies to the Sound of Music, how do
There’s a saying amongst attorneys that “bad facts make bad law.”  By extension, “really bad facts” can throw probate procedure into flux by making it harder to qualify for an evidentiary hearing.  That’s arguably what happened in Conservatorship of Farrant (2021) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, a decision issued this month by the California Court of Appeal.  And make no mistake, the facts in Farrant were terrible. Farrant’s Really Bad Conduct In 2014, Duane Farrant’s 88-year-old mother travelled from California to Missouri, seemingly for a short, two-week visit with Farrant.  While there, she was diagnosed with major neurocognitive disorder and paranoid…
While Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” a California probate court may be the opposite for a Disney heir, mused the U.S. Court of Appeals in Lund v. Cowan (9th Cir. 2021) ___ F.3d ___. Bradford Lund, a 50 year-old grandson of Walt Disney, sued the probate judge who rejected a settlement agreement that would have allowed him to access his approximately $200 million inheritance, and the federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The real drama has played out in the probate department of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Litigation there has spanned…
Fort Hayes State University in Kansas, home of the Tigers, almost lost a $20 million donation because of a forged codicil (amendment) to the will of Earl Field. Earl was a World War II pilot, successful businessperson, and booster of FHSU. He died in 2013 at the age of 98. The forgery was proven only after a murder-suicide of two key witnesses and a lengthy trial followed by an appeal. In 2019, FHSU was able to roar in celebration of the largest gift in its 117-year history. Hear the story of Earl’s will, and the broader problem of inheritance…
On June 30, 2021, in Save Lafayette Trees, et. al v. East Bay Regional Park District (Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Real Party in Interest), the First District Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of a CEQA claim as time-barred because it found that PG&E, a necessary and indispensable party, was not bound to an agreement to toll the CEQA statute of limitations because it was not a signatory. Additionally, the Court upheld the dismissal for failure to state a viable cause of action to all other claims. Appellants filed an action against East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), naming…
In June 2021, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the County of El Dorado’s (“County”) mitigated negative declaration (“MND”) for a bridge construction project against complaints that the project’s construction would block an evacuation route for residents in the event of a wildfire. In its holding in Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado, the Court reaffirmed precedent finding that the key question for hazards, such as wildfire, in the context of CEQA is not the impact that the existing environment presents to the project, but whether the Project would exacerbate hazard risks. The project at issue…
[Editor’s Note: Lauren Murvihill is a summer associate at Downey Brand. She is a student at UC Davis School of Law.] The thrifty do-it-yourselfers among us might jump at the opportunity to transfer their family home to their kids while avoiding probate and the expense of creating a trust.  Revocable Transfer on Death Deeds, or RTODDs, have allowed for this type of non-probate transfer in California since 2016. SB 315, now in the California Assembly having already passed in the Senate, will modify the Probate Code provisions that govern RTODDs.  The bill aims to protect transferors from vulnerabilities…
What are the ethical obligations of a California lawyer for a client with diminished mental capacity?  The ethics committee of the State Bar of California answers this key question in draft Formal Opinion No. 13-0002, with public comment due by August 24, 2021. While all lawyers may represent clients who have questionable capacity, the situation arises with frequency and urgency for estate planning attorneys.  The opinion interprets the California Rules of Professional Conduct as amended in 2018.  Along with the updated ethics guide recently published by the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association, the opinion…