Practice Areas


TRUST AND ESTATE LITIGATION

The Eroen Law Firm provides skilled representation to individual and corporate fiduciaries and other parties involved in judicial construction and modification of wills and trusts, will and trust contests, accounting actions, removal of trustees, elder abuse, contested powers of attorney, negligent and even fraudulent fiduciaries, defending a fiduciary of a trust or estate and dissatisfied heirs.  At the Eroen Law Firm, we believe that, first and foremost, you deserve a trust and estates litigator experienced and proficient enough to give you an honest assessment of both the strengths – and weaknesses – of your case, and a clear path to its resolution.

Trust and estate litigation requires skilled and experienced counsel that can understand and appreciate both the sophisticated and novel legal and financial issues involved as well as the emotional aspects.  We strive to achieve favorable results for our clients with our ability to identify critical issues and efficiently develop strategies on a case-by-case basis.  Whether it is probate or civil court, including appeals, our clients benefit from our decades of experience in handling trust and estate litigation matters, in and out of the courtroom.

 

ESTATE PLANNING

Proper estate planning is essential to preserving the value of your wealth and compliance with many different laws.  In addition, we are always mindful that the estate planning process requires our clients to make some of life’s most important and sensitive decisions.  The attorneys at the Eroen Law Firm are highly skilled, multi-disciplined professionals with extensive experience with the often complex laws that affect the transfer of assets by way of gift or death, and the emotional implications of this delicate topic.  We represent a wide spectrum of clients, from individuals and families to entrepreneurs and businesses, with respect to their estate and business planning needs.

The firm’s principal, Robert C. Eroen, has been certified as a legal specialist in Estate Planning for over 10 years by the California State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Eroen is also licensed as a Certified Public Accountant, and holds a Certified Financial Planner certificate.  For 20 years, Mr. Eroen and the Eroen Law Firm have been devising unique and flexible estate plans, capable of responding to changing family needs, shifting economic climates, ever-changing tax laws and other unforeseen circumstances.

The Eroen Law Firm’s Estate Planning Services include the drafting of simple wills and trusts; financial and health care powers of attorney; more complex trust instruments; and more sophisticated estate planning techniques designed specifically to minimize estate taxes for higher wealth clients, including charitable lead and remainder trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), qualified personal residence trusts (QRPTs), grantor retained annuity and uni-trusts (GRATs and GRUTs), and family limited partnerships (FLPs).

 

ESTATE ADMINISTRATION

We understand that the loss of a loved one can be a challenging and uncertain time.   At the Eroen Law Firm, our professionals make the complex process of estate administration as simple as possible, from the initial court filing to the ultimate distribution of assets.

What Is Probate?

When someone dies without a trust, it is often necessary to “probate” his or her estate.  Probate is the court-supervised process of paying a decedent’s legitimate debts, obtaining inventories and appraisals of a decedent’s assets and distributing the assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will).

Alternatives to Probate

Because probate is expensive and time consuming, a responsible attorney first tries to determine if there is an alternative to probate.  In California, the most common alternatives to probate are a Spousal Property Petition (if there is a surviving spouse) or a small estate transfer (if the value of the estate is less than $150,000.00 and other conditions are met). If these and other alternatives to probate are unavailable, then the only recourse for the decedent’s heirs may be to file a probate proceeding.

 

TRUST ADMINISTRATION

At the Eroen Law Firm, we provide quality trust administration services, either as attorney for trustees, or as professional trustees and executors.

Trust administration is similar to estate administration, except that with trust administration, the decedent, prior to his/her death, created a trust and transferred most, if not all, of his/her assets into a living trust, wherein the decedent was the trustee of the trust.  Thus, as the time of his/her death, all of his/her assets were already “transferred” and no formal probate is necessary.  A successor trustee designated in the trust simply assumes the role as trustee and administration of the trust continues seamlessly after the death of the decedent.  While many of the same tasks must still be performed as if the estate were in probate (creditors must still be paid; taxes must still be filed; and assets must still be ultimately distributed pursuant to the terms of the trust), all of this can happen without court supervision, and for much less cost.  However, while trust administration is much less formal then probate administration, it still should be performed with the advice of competent attorneys experienced in this area of the law.

Often times, individuals appointed in a trust or will as a successor trustee or an executor simply do not want to serve; have died; or there is a conflict among beneficiaries.  When this occurs, beneficiaries will look for an impartial, neutral party to serve as the fiduciary, or the court will appoint a neutral party.  Robert C. Eroen has served as administrator and trustee on several occasions, both as a court-appointed fiduciary and as a fiduciary selected by the beneficiaries.  In addition, Mr. Eroen has served as a Guardian ad Litem, Special Administrator, Minor’s Counsel and Court Appointed Attorney on over 100 cases.

 

CONSERVATORSHIP / CAPACITY ISSUES

CONSERVATORSHIPS IN CALIFORNIA

A conservatorship is a protective court proceeding in which an adult individual, known as the “conservator” is given the authority and the fiduciary responsibility to care for another adult individual, known as the “conservatee.” The court may appoint a conservator of the person or the estate, or both, for an adult.

In a conservatorship of the person, the conservator manages the personal care of a person who cannot properly provide for his or her own personal needs, which include the needs for physical health, medical care, food, clothing, or shelter. Under a conservatorship of the person, the conservator has the “care, custody and control” of the conservatee, which includes the power to determine where the conservatee will live.  The conservatee, however, is presumed to have the capacity to make medical decisions, unless the court determines that the that the conservatee lacks the capacity to give informed consent for health care, in which case the conservator is given authority over the conservatee’s medical care, or certain aspects thereof.  As a general rule, a conservator does not control the conservatee’s right to receive visitors, telephone calls and personal mail, nor other “personal rights,” unless specifically limited by court order.

In a conservatorship of the estate, the conservator manages the financial affairs of a person who is substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence.  The conservator’s primary responsibility is to conserve, manage, and use the conservatee’s property for the benefit of both the conservatee and those whom he or she is obligated to support. The conservator is required to use ordinary care and diligence.

Before establishing a conservatorship of the person or estate, a court must determine that a conservatorship is the “least restrictive alternative.”  If, for example, a proposed conservatee has an existing power of attorney or trust in place that can adequately provide for his or her personal and financial needs, a conservatorship should not be necessary.

Once a conservatorship is established, the law imposes many duties upon the conservator to enable the court to adequately supervise the conservatorship.  These duties include, but are not limited to, the preparation of a formal plan of care on behalf of the conservatee; the inventorying of the conservatee’s assets; and the preparation and filing of periodic formal accountings with the court.

Experienced attorneys at the Eroen Law Firm can help you and your loved ones with the procedural aspects of conservatorships, such as initiating conservatorship proceedings; the preparation of court accountings, and related transactions.

Often times the establishment of a conservatorship is contested, because well-meaning people can differ as to who they believe should serve as conservator, and whether a conservatorship is needed in the first instance.  The attorneys at the Eroen Law Firm are specialists in contested conservatorship matters, assisting in speedy resolution of conservatorship disputes.