Lonich & Patton In The Community!

Posted February 9, 2017 in In the Community by Michael Lonich.


February 9, 2017
Lonich & Patton In The Community!
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Mock trial is a great way to learn the practical tools of the legal trade.  Just ask Lonich & Patton attorney, Bobby Khalajestani, who competed in several moot court competitions during law school and was a member of Santa Clara Law School’s Trial Team!  Now though, Bobby is taking a seat at the judges’ table–in early February, he judged the 2017 Santa Clara High School Mock Trial Tournament.  In a mock criminal trial, over 400 participating students had to get several statements in during pretrial motions, make objections based on the Evidence Code, conduct direct and cross examinations, and give opening and closing statements.  Bobby reports that everybody competed at a very high level and displayed great court room skills!  The tournament is ongoing as the students progress through multiple rounds, so be sure to check out the competition schedule if you would like to watch these future lawyers in action.

Congratulations to the tournament’s participants, and good luck to everybody still in the game!

For more information about Bobby or any of our firm’s attorneys, please contact Lonich & Patton—we offer free half-hour consultation appointments to assess your family law and estate planning needs.

Please remember though, that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed on this site are not a guarantee of future results.  While our blog posts may detail general legal issues, they are not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Trust Administration: How a Trustee Can Collect Reasonable Fees

Posted January 24, 2017 in Estate Planning by Michael Lonich.

Although trusts do avoid the complication and expense of probate proceedings, a trustee—the person given power to hold legal title to and to manage trust assets—is not necessarily spared the administrative burdens that can accompany estate management.  Trustee responsibilities can include clearing title to property held in the decedent’s name, the preparation and filing of estate and income tax returns, and the collection of insurance proceeds—essentially any task necessary to administer the trust as the trust instrument instructs.  Typically, the creator of the trust—the settlor—will appoint a trustee in the trust instrument and provide compensation from his or her estate for the trustee’s services.  However, if the trust instrument does not specify any compensation, California Probate Code § 15681 allows a trustee to receive “reasonable compensation under the circumstances.”

In re McLaughlin’s Estate defines “reasonable.”  First, the trial court has wide discretion when making a fee determination, but it should consider the following factors:

1) The gross income of the trust estate

2) The success or failure of the trustee’s estate administration

3) Any unusual skill or experience which the trustee may have brought to his/her work

4) The fidelity or disloyalty displayed by the trustee

5) The amount of risk and responsibility assumed by the trustee

6) The time spent by the trustee in carrying out the trust

7) Community customs as to fees allowed by settlors/courts or as to fees charged by trust companies and banks

8) The character of the administration work done

9) Whether the work was routine or involving skill and judgment

10) Any estimate which trustee has given of his/her own services.

In McLaughlin, the appeal court concluded, after considering the above factors, that the trial court justly allocated reasonable fees—the trustees had profitably and with special skill managed the trust property, had accurately summarized receipts and transactions, and had committed a large amount of time to the trust’s administration.

Estate of Nazro provides another example of the above factors in action: Here, although the trustee received dividend checks, made bank deposits, wrote checks, prepared quarterly accountings, and reviewed trust assets, the work did not consume much of the trustee’s time.  Further, the court noted that corporate trustees in the area customarily charged management fees based on a schedule of percentages of the value of the various trust assets.  Therefore, the court held that $2,500 was an appropriate amount of compensation for the trustee’s services.

Ultimately, managing a trust estate is not always a walk in the park—if not otherwise provided, trustees should not be afraid to ask for compensation for their services.  However, keep in mind that compensation must reasonable and proportional to the work done on behalf of the trust.

If you have recently been named or appointed as a trustee or you are interested in creating a trust, please contact the experienced attorneys at Lonich & Patton.  We can help you understand what being a trustee entails, and if you want to create a trust, how you can properly compensate your chosen trustee.

Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.


California Probate Code § 15681

In re McLaughlin’s Estate (1954) 43 Cal.2d 462

Estate of Nazro (1971) 15 Cal.App.2d. 218

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The “Brangelina” Custody Battle

Posted November 14, 2016 in Family Law by Lonich and Patton.

After more than a decade together and six kids, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are getting divorced. Aside from the challenges presented by the division of their purportedly very high value estate, the parties also face a potentially very challenging custody battle over their six children, who are all under the age of 16 years old.

To determine child custody, California courts look to “the best interests of the child.” While it sounds simple, this standard can prove quite challenging for the court depending on the family. Variables such as the child’s age, maturity, and their relationship with the parents, need to be considered. Moreover, the child’s school and activity schedule and the parents’ work schedules only add to the challenge.  Courts may also, but are not required to, consider the child’s preference if he or she is of appropriate age and capacity. Whether a child is of “appropriate age and capacity” depends largely on their maturity and understanding of the proceedings, usually found to be around age 10.

Each case is different based on the level of cooperation, or animosity between the parents. Ideally, the parents can work together and agree on a workable custody schedule. However, the far more common scenario involves parents who cannot agree, and have difficulty communicating with one another. For these parents, the court must step in and make determinations based on the facts presented.

First, the court will send the parents to mediation. The mediator is a third-party neutral, meant to facilitate the parents’ coming to an agreement. Next, if they are still unable to agree, the judge will meet with the parents at a Judicial Custody Conference. If the parents are still unable to agree, the judge will order the parents to go through an Assessment After the Assessment, an in-depth process where the judge ultimately decides the custody and visitation schedule.

Courts may award sole or joint physical custody to the parents. Sole physical custody consists of the child living with and being supervised by one parent. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, can take many forms depending on the parents’ schedules, proximity to one another, etc. When parents share joint physical custody each parent has “significant periods” of physical custody. This does not necessarily equate to equal time between parents.

In Brangelina’s case, their unique work-life schedules, and global lifestyles will likely play a large role in how custody is ultimately split between the parties. Media sources report that both parties have asserted a desire to have physical custody of the children. Thus, some form of joint physical custody is the most likely result. Given that both, Angelina and Brad are actors, they have similar interests in a less traditional time-split for the children. Both parties will have to concede that they have extended periods of time when they remain on-site, and work long days while filming, which make them less available for the children during those time periods. A traditional 50-50 split is not going to work for them. Thus, it behooves them to try to cooperate with one another and recognize where they share common ground – the desire to give their kids the very best life they can. Luckily, Angelina and Brad have robust means to provide as non-traditional of a lifestyle for their children as they need to in order to fit whatever time-split needs they may have.

If the two cannot agree on an amicable custody arrangement, the court may have to step in. Given the children’s ages, it may consider their preferences depending on whether it finds they are of appropriate age and capacity. The court will likely strongly urge Angelina and Brad to try to agree on their own in light of the inherent publicity that follows their fame and the public’s interest in their celebrity lives. Like all parents, the parties are likely to feel more satisfied with an agreement they formulated rather than a court’s determination.

If you need help with a custody or visitation claim, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex family law matters and offer a free consultation.

Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Grandparents Have Rights Too: Grandparent Visitation

Posted November 11, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild can be one of great happiness and importance for both the grandparent and grandchild. However, sometimes events such as divorce or a parent’s death may strain loving relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren. As a result, the grandchild’s parent(s) may block any further contact with grandparents. However, all 50 states now have some type of grandparent visitation law that allow grandparents to ask the court to give them the legal right to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren.

In California, a statute grants visitation rights to grandparents only when they have a preexisting relationship with their grandchild “that has engendered a bond such that visitation is in the best interest of the child.” Cal. Fam. Code § 3104. In addition, the statute directs the court to balance the interest of the child in visitation with his or her grandparent against the right of the parents to exercise their parental authority. Id. Finally, the statute provides a rebuttable presumption that grandparent visitation is not in the best interest of the child if the parent objects.

However, in a recent case, Stuard v. Stuard, the Third District found that even though Family Code section 3104 provides a rebuttable presumption that grandparent visitation is not in the best interest of the child if the parent objects, the parent’s right is not absolute. Stuard v. Stuard (2016) 244 Cal. App. 4th 768. According to the Stuard court, the law “reflects a legitimate state interest in preserving an already existing grandparent-grandchild relationship that is threatened but in the best interest of the grandchild to safeguard.” In other words, even though there may be rebuttable presumption, it may be overcome. The grandparents will need to show in some detail what it is that they add to the grandchildren’s lives, not just a general statement that they have a close relationship with the children and that continuing that relationship is in the best interest of the child.

In a time when families are constantly changing, grandparent visitation laws have become increasingly significant. If you have any questions about grandparent visitation and would like to speak to an attorney, please contact Lonich & Patton for further information.  Keep in mind that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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“Always has the best advice for you” -AVVO reviewer

Posted October 24, 2016 in Firm News by Lonich and Patton.

Gina Policastri, partner at Lonich & Patton, has gained a reputation for being a compassionate but strong advocate for her clients. She has worked with clients involved in long and difficult divorces.  One AVVO reviewer recently noted that after a lengthy divorce of 6 years that seemed to be going nowhere, Gina was able to finalize his divorce in only 8 months! As the reviewer stated, “She is extremely organized, a hard worker and always has the best advice for you and knows what is needed to do to move your case forward!”

Gina Policastri is a Certified Family Law Specialist.  She handles all areas of family law including high conflict custody cases, complex business valuation and asset division issues and complicated child and spousal support matters.

For more information or to schedule your free ½ hour consultation, please contact Lonich & Patton. Please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.



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