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California Estate Planning Attorneys

We have moved our office. Please visit us at our new location: 74175 El Paseo, Palm Desert, California.

California Estate Planning Attorneys

Our firm provides clients with the care, accuracy, and dedication expected of experienced attorneys. To deliver exceptional representation is our passion and our promise. We strive to know each of our clients on a personal level. Our Palm Desert estate planning lawyers recognize that we can provide the best legal advice and services when we understand your short-term and long-term goals. Therefore, we take the time to listen and provide legal solutions based on your unique circumstances.

Estate planning is the process of preparing documents to assist your family with end-of-life decisions and the distribution of your assets after death. Proper estate planning can also reduce tax consequences. If you do not conduct any estate planning, your assets will pass by intestate succession at your death, which is a set of default rules. Many people would prefer to control the distribution of their property. Estate planning will entail determining what one’s wishes are and having a will or living trust drafted in accordance with those wishes. A will is a document that can be used to dispose of property and name a personal guardian for your minor children. Trusts are arrangements whereby a trustee holds legal title to property for someone else, known as a beneficiary. Often, the person who makes the trust is the trustee during his or her lifetime. Our estate planning attorneys can help Palm Desert residents and people in the surrounding areas draft thorough wills and trusts.


Probate is the legal proceeding whereby property owned by a decedent is transferred to heirs when somebody passes away and no trust was created. If there is a valid will, the will is used to determine the distribution. However, if there is no will, the laws of intestacy will govern the distribution. A probate case may proceed without litigation, but in some cases, a will is challenged in a will contest, and a complicated trial may ensue. Probate is a very public proceeding and is time consuming. The probate process usually lasts between 9 and 12 months.

Trust Administration

Once a trust is created, and the trustor who established it passes away, trust administration takes place. During trust administration, the trustee carries out the provisions of the trust. This can include gathering assets, distributing funds, managing the estate, and preparing tax returns. Trustees owe a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries of the trust, and their duties are set forth in the California Probate Code. They need to abide by stringent rules. Often, our Palm Desert estate planning attorneys are hired to advise trustees when trust provisions are complex or numerous assets are involved.


If there is a valid will, assets must be distributed after a death based on the wishes of the testator (the person making the will). Wills must follow certain formalities to be valid. The testator must sign the will in front of two people and the witnesses must sign at the same time. Neither witness should be a beneficiary of the will. California, unlike other jurisdictions, also recognizes the validity of a holographic will. A holographic will is written in the handwriting of the testator and it must be signed and dated. Holographic wills are available only to adults 18 years or older. A holographic will does not need to be witnessed or notarized. Although there has been more interest in electronic wills and digital signatures these are not yet authorized under California law.


Trustees are required to manage a trust and carry out the trust provisions. A well-crafted trust will demand substantial work by a trustee for the purposes of gathering property, distributing funds, managing the trust estate, and preparing and filing tax returns. Trustees must follow strict rules and are accountable for the actions that they take in their fiduciary role as a trustee. The California Probate Code sets forth trustee duties. Our Palm Desert estate planning lawyers can guide trustees in fulfilling their responsibilities.


Under California law, when an adult becomes incompetent or unable to manage their finances, the probate court can appoint a conservator to manage their affairs. Establishing a conservatorship is a formal legal and sometimes lengthy proceeding that will only be established if there are no other alternatives. We can advise you on the obligations and rights that come with a conservatorship. A conservatorship may be avoided if the person who becomes incapacitated made adequate prior arrangements through estate planning.

Trust and Probate Litigation

Conflicts may arise over the provisions in a will or a trust after someone dies. Heirs and beneficiaries may question the capacity of the testator or claim that other individuals unduly influenced the trustor. Occasionally, a trustee will need to bring an action to bring back assets into the trust that were previously distributed to beneficiaries or other individuals under fraudulent circumstances. Trust and probate litigation also might entail challenging or objecting to the actions of the trustees or executors. Trustees owe substantial responsibilities to trust beneficiaries, and if they do not comply or do not provide accountings of the property within the trust, a beneficiary may file a petition to hold the trustee accountable. There are situations in which trustees misappropriate funds or property and they may need to be removed through formal procedures.

Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer in the Palm Desert Area

Julia E. Burt and Heidi Richert Clerc are certified specialists in estate planning, trust, and probate law. We believe that the age of general practitioners is gone. Attorneys need to have experience in their chosen field of law, and clients expect them to practice with unparalleled excellence. We strive to meet client expectations each day. Our firm partners with each of our clients carefully to make sure that we are meeting their needs and wishes. We represent people throughout the Palm Springs area and in Riverside, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties. Call Burt + Clerc at 760-340-0034 or contact us via our online form.

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