From the Chair

by

FROM THE CHAIR

By Jeremy B. Crickard, Esq.*

The Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section ("TEXCOM") is focused on improving the practice of law for Section members and for the public in general. While this focus is singular, the means to accomplish this goal are several. In my first "From the Chair" column I would like to highlight one of the ways TEXCOM carries out its mandate. TEXCOM runs on the tireless efforts and expertise of its thirty-five volunteer members/advisors, and I would like to highlight the service of several of these remarkable individuals.

I would first like to express my gratitude to TEXCOM’s immediate past Chair, Bart J. Schenone. Bart’s one-year term as Chair was an extension of his prior seven years of exceptional service to TEXCOM and the Section. Bart’s steady leadership, incredible depth of knowledge in the field, and dedication to all things TEXCOM amount to an irreplaceable combination. Fortunately, though Bart’s tenure as Chair has ended, Bart will continue to serve as an advisor to TEXCOM for an additional three years as is the tradition for our past Chairs.

It is early spring as I write this column, which marks the start of the legislative cycle. TEXCOM is involved in legislation impacting the areas of practice of our Section members. As a Section of the State Bar of California, TEXCOM is precluded from engaging in political activities. TEXCOM therefore focuses on providing technical comments and guidance in areas relevant to the expertise and legal practices of our Section members. The administration of guardianships, conservatorships, probates, and trusts are each governed largely by statutes in the Probate Code, and thus technical comments and guidance are often required or relevant to legislation impacting our practices. Consequently, TEXCOM devotes considerable time and effort to its legislative program.

This year, nearly 2,300 bills were introduced in California. Each year the Legislation and Incapacity Subcommittees review every one of these bills to determine if they are relevant to our Section members. Since the vast majority of these bills are introduced at the end of February and begin moving through legislative subcommittees shortly thereafter, the members of these two Subcommittees often have less than two weeks to review all of these bills. These volunteers somehow manage this in addition to their own practices and the time commitments that come with busy lives. A special thank you is therefore in order for the Legislation Subcommittee Co-Chairs, Yvonne Ascher and Gina Lera, the Incapacity Chair, Gina Lera, and all the members of the Incapacity and Legislation Subcommittees (Jennifer Bratt, Chris Carico, Ed Corey, Jana Ellerman, Julia Gold, Howard Horwitz, Michael Kerner, David Knitter, Philip Lindsley, Matt Matiasevich, Matt McMurtrey, Daniel Murphy, Thomas Shaver, Herb Stroh, Vivian Thoreen, and Jennifer Wilkerson).

Once all of the bills are reviewed, TEXCOM provides comment on those bills relevant to our Section members where TEXCOM’s input may be impactful and appropriate. Through the efforts of members past and present, TEXCOM has developed valuable standing as an organization based upon the accumulated expertise and experience of its members. This reputation for legal expertise impacts how TEXCOM’s comments are received, and also results in legislative staff consulting with TEXCOM to obtain its technical expertise on pending bills. This practice continued this year as TEXCOM was asked for input on several bills.

An excellent example of TEXCOM’s involvement in the legislative process is the California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act discussed by Jennifer Wilkerson and Linda Durston in this issue. TEXCOM was asked to work with the California Law Revision Commission to implement a uniform act regarding jurisdiction over adult guardianships (what we refer to as conservatorships here in California). TEXCOM involvement, primarily through Jennifer Wilkerson’s efforts, helped shape what ultimately became the California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act.

Lastly, TEXCOM puts forth its own affirmative legislative proposals. This year, TEXCOM proposed legislation that would create a new "Trustee Property Petition." Designed to work similar to a spousal property petition, the proposed trustee property petition would allow the trustee of a revocable trust to petition to have specific property added to the decedent’s trust after death under circumstances where the decedent left a simple pour-over will. In effect, this would provide a procedure to avoid full probate administration for unfunded trusts in limited circumstances. This legislative proposal has been introduced by Senator Hertzberg as SB 155.

TEXCOM’s legislative program involves the efforts and dedication of members and advisors of TEXCOM as well as many non-TEXCOM volunteers. I want to express my gratitude for all of their efforts, only some of which are mentioned here. It is a privilege to serve as Chair of TEXCOM for many reasons, but perhaps mostly for the opportunity to serve with such bright and wonderfully knowledgeable experts who, despite the many demands on their time, are enthusiastic about improving the law and practice for our Section members and the public.

*Withers Bergman LLP, Rancho Santa Fe, California

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