Probate and Trust Administration

Losing a friend or family member can be difficult and confusing. During this time, you may have a lot of questions. We have a dedicated team of probate and trust administration professionals who are able to guide you through the process.

From simple to complex estate administrations, from will contests to debt negotiation, we are happy to aid you as you settle your loved one’s estate.

We represent any party involved in the probate and trust administration process, including trustees, personal representatives, or beneficiaries. We are well-equipped to handle litigation or alternative dispute resolution regarding contested estates.

We help people from all over the country if the matter involves any place in California, while we navigate the intricacies of working out their loved one’s final wishes. Our extensive network of trusted professionals can help you with tax returns, real estate sales, sales of special assets, investment advice, and anything else you may need to complete the administration.

We provide free phone consultations in order to help you determine the kind of guidance that you need. Please feel free to call our office at (415) 693-0550.


Probate is a court-supervised process that transfers legal title to someone’s assets after that person dies. Many steps and technical rules are involved in probating an estate, and sometimes multiple court appearances usually are required. Attorney fees and other probate fees are set by statute.

In cases where the decedent had a trust, the assets held in that trust do not have to pass through probate. Probate is often required when the decedent did not have a trust, or for those assets which were not included in the trust. The probate process involves transferring property and assets, paying the debts of the estate, and notifying beneficiaries. Probate court is also the forum through which will contests, trust contests, or fiduciary challenges regarding the estate are settled. Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP represents executors of estates in the probate process, as well as clients involved in probate and trust litigation.

Our firm handles probate proceedings anywhere in California.

Representing a Beneficiary’s Interest: You may have questions or require assistance in determining your rights as a beneficiary of a trust or will or as a legal heir to an estate. Getting proper legal advice at the onset can often expedite the process, as well as provide necessary support.

Trust Adminstration

Living trusts must be properly administered after the trustor dies. This is a private process that involves locating and valuing assets, notifying beneficiaries, paying expenses and taxes, establishing and administering sub-trusts, if necessary, distributing property to intended recipients, and advising successor trustees.

As a named trustee, it will be to your benefit to seek legal advice, as the trust will have to be administered in compliance with its own terms and in accordance with California state law. Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP will help you through this process and ensure that your responsibilities are met. We can also assist you with consulting with financial advisors and the preparation of estate tax returns.

At Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP, we are experienced in managing the process of trust administration and will work with your accountant and other advisors to ensure that this process is as orderly and stress-free as possible.


Generally, when establishing conservatorships, a conservator must be appointed to make decisions for a person who no longer posseses legal capacity and who has not planned ahead. Depending upon the situation, a court will appoint a conservator to protect the person, the estate or both. Estate planning can sometimes be completed after a conservator has been appointed, but often that is the court’s decision. Planning ahead is always preferable.

Beneficiary Representation

As a Beneficiary, you may believe that too much money has been spent on fees to the trustee or third parties, that assets were not properly invested, or that a distribution was made to a person who was not entitled to it, or you may simply be overwhelmed by the information and decisions to be made. If you are a beneficiary in this situation, or a trustee who believes that the beneficiary’s claim is not justified, please contact us for further information.

At Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP, we are adept at the many complications of California law.  We will represent you with integrity and help you evaluate your situation with the goal of a fair and efficient outcome.  Please feel free to call us at (415) 693-0550 to set up a consultation.