Downey Brand LLP

Latest from Downey Brand LLP

When musician Prince Rogers Nelson died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, he had no estate plan in place, not even a will.  We blogged that “You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Need an Estate Plan.” As the third anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, his probate estate continues to be administered in Carver County District Court in Minnesota.  Judge Kevin Eide issued orders naming Comerica Bank & Trust as Personal Representative…
In a long-awaited decision, on December 24, 2018 the California Supreme Court in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (S219783) affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part, the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s decision concerning a challenge to the adequacy of an EIR prepared for the Friant Ranch retirement community (“Project”).  Employing a de novo standard of review, the Court found that the Project EIR is inadequate as a matter of law because the EIR…
Can a disinherited person contest a trust amendment under California Probate Code section 17200?  No, said the Court of Appeal last August in Barefoot v. Jennings (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 1. The Barefoot opinion put pending trust contests in jeopardy, as contestants typically have used section 17200 as the procedural hook to challenge trust amendments that disfavored them.  Last week, however, the California Supreme Court granted review of Barefoot such that the opinion no…
What is a reasonable trustee’s fee in California for a family member who acts as trustee?  We see a high degree of conflict over this issue even when the amount of the claimed fee is small compared to value of the trust estate.  Our blog analytics show that our post of a few years ago on the fee issue continues to draw a high number of hits.  If you found this post in a Google…
After a long drought, the California Supreme Court at its November 14, 2018 conference voted unanimously to grant review of three decisions involving the question of whether well permits issued pursuant to county ordinances and incorporating state groundwater well-drilling standards are ministerial and thus not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).  Although interpreting different county well ordinances enacted by San Luis Obispo and Stanislaus Counties, the ordinances each incorporated state well-drilling…
What happens when the settlor (i.e., creator) of a trust imposes a condition precedent on receipt of a distribution from the trust, but the condition cannot be met because the circumstances have changed?  Is the beneficiary out of luck for reasons beyond his or her control? The First District Court of Appeal took up this issue in Schwan v. Permann (2018) 28 Cal.App.5th 678, finding that the doctrine of impossibility can excuse a condition…
A California trustee can be excused from liability for breaches of trust if a judge determines that it would be equitable to do so. We see many situations where a family member trustee strays from the requirements of the trust instrument. Still, if the trustee does not favor himself or herself, and the beneficiary is not appreciably harmed, then the trustee may get a pass from the court under California Probate Code section 16440. …
On October 24, 2018, the Fourth Appellate District upheld the trial court’s decision in Save Our Heritage Organization v. City of San Diego (D073064), finding that the use of an addendum as outlined in section 15164 of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Guideline for approval of project modifications is valid under CEQA and does not conflict with CEQA’s public review requirements.  Additionally, the Court also found that once an EIR is approved, the lead…
On October 23, the First Appellate District issued its opinion in Save Lafayette Trees v. City of Lafayette et al. (Case No. A154168) finding that Save Lafayette Trees’ (“Save Lafayette”) CEQA challenge to a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) tree removal project was timely filed and served, reversing in part and affirming in part the trial court’s sustaining of a demurrer to the petition for writ of mandate (“Petition”). The Court of Appeal affirmed the…
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, included as title I of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), was signed into law today.  The new law provides the needed authorization for investment in harbor, waterway, flood protection, and other water infrastructure improvements throughout the country. As noted in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee press release: “I am proud of the fact that our Committee, the House, and the Senate…