Bruce Adrian Last

Bruce Adrian Last

Solo practitioner specializing in probate and trust law.
  • Estate Planning, Probate
  • California
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Summary

After working for ten years at The Jellins Group, APLC, a general practice law firm, I moved to Contra Costa County and decided to start my own law practice. My primary practice area is estate planning, probate and trust administration and litigation. However, I also work in the related area of real estate and landlord-tenant law. I received my J.D. from McGeorge School of Law in 2002, graduating Dean’s Honor Roll. San Francisco State University conferred a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Creative Arts in 1998 following my completion of a course focusing on audio-video and multi-media production and design. In addition to operating my own practice, I currently am an attorney editor for Thomson Reuters and volunteer with Contra Costa County Senior Legal Services.

Practice Areas
  • Estate Planning
  • Probate
Fees
  • Not Currently Accepting Clients
  • Rates, Retainers and Additional Information
    Due to a career change, I am not accepting new clients at this time.
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
California
Languages
  • English: Spoken, Written
Professional Experience
Attorney/Owner
Bruce Last, Attorney at Law
- Current
Senior Associate
The Jellins Group, APLC
-
Education
California State University - San Francisco State University
Undergraduate Degree
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
J.D. (2002) | Law
Honors: Dean's Honor List 2002
Professional Associations
Contra Costa County Bar Assoication
Member
- Current
California State Bar # 231750
Member
- Current
Websites & Blogs
Website
My Web Page
Legal Answers
276 Questions Answered

Q. My mom died and resided in California. She has an account in Ohio I need to close. Total assets 25,000. Probate?
A: As others suggest, personal property (that is anything other then real property) is subject to the laws of the State where the decedent died. Thus, the Ohio bank should honer an affidavit under California Probate Code s. 13100. (https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/form-affidavit-for-collection-of-personal-property.pdf) Sometimes, a small, local bank (one that does not have branches in California) is unfamiliar with the process. Generally, a letter and phone call from an attorney will clear this up. (About 1-2 hours of attorney time.) Best of luck.
Q. Is it legal to ask a beneficiary to claim money from distributions he never received, for taxes, through Schedule K-1s?
A: Quail Valley: From what you describe, something does not sound right. In some instances a trust or estate will "pass though" tax liability to the beneficiary but only where that liability is connected to a distribution. For example, if a trust makes a distribution to a beneficiary that consists of income and capital gains earned by the trust, it may pass the tax liability to the beneficiary. This is done because the beneficiary, as a general rule, has a lower tax rate than the trust. So, it indeed seems odd that the trustee would ask you to state that you received a distribution if you did not. I am also concerned that you do not believe there is money in the trust to make a distribution. Beneficiaries who are entitled to distributions are also entitled to a yearly accounting. (Even if the trust instrument, to which you are entitled a copy of, waives the accounting the trustee is still required to provide certain financial information.) I strongly suggest that you speak with an attorney about this as soon as possible. If there is "monkey business" going on, the law provides you with the ability to remove and replace the trustee, and hold the trustee accountable. However, without reviewing all relevant documents and communications it is not possible to provide a better picture of what is going on. If you do not know where to find an attorney, your local county bar association may provide an attorney referral service which provides a consultation at a small or no fee. Best of luck.
Q. I have a question about making changes to Will
A: Glendale: To codicil or not to codicil, that is the question. In order to make changes to a will, you have two options. You can make a new will revoking the old will, or you can write an amendment, called a codicil, to change only the portions you wish. Creating a new will, and revoking and destroying the new will, is probably the better practice unless you are working with an attorney. Primarily because an improperly drafted codicil may end up with provisions conflicting with the original will, resulting in a need for court interpretation. I can tell you that making changes by scratch outs, interliniations (writing in additional or new language), or making other changes to the face of the original will should not be done. While a scratch out (or obliteration) of language may revoke that portion, the interliniation may not be valid, resulting in an incomplete will or worse. And, any codicil or will must be executed with the correct formalities for California and other procedures to lower the chance of a contest (challenge to the will) just like a will. Most people know the requirement of the signature of two witnesses who do not receive a gift in the will. (A Notary acknowledgement by itself does not meet execution formalities.) And, the witnesses should use a "self proving affidavit" and legibly print (or have typed in) their names and addresses. In case of a contest, you want to be able to find the witnesses. Even a holographic will (a will in your own handwriting and signed and dated by you) should be witnessed, although it is not required. Again, if there is a contest you want witnesses who can testify in court about the authenticity of the document. There are a number of good resources on the internet about how to draft your own will. But, wills, their enforcement and effect is a fairly technical area of law. I recommend that you have an attorney "check your work" for any home made will or trust. Think of it as insurance, you pay a little now to avoid your heirs and beneficiaries paying a lot latter. Plus, if you have an estate of any reasonable value (more than $150,000) or you own real property (even if there is a mortgage), an attorney may be able to suggest alternatives that will avoid probate. Probate is both time consuming and expensive. Even a small $200,000 estate will cost $14,000 in attorney and adminsitrator's fees to administer in probate. While a revocable living trust is the "gold standard" for avoiding probate, there are other avenues which are less expensive and may be appropriate depending on the nature and extent of your assets. If you don't know where to find an attorney, you can try your local county bar association. Many California county bar associations provide attorney referral services which, for a small or no fee, refer you to an attorney who provides a half-hour or hour consultation. Best of luck, and Happy Holidays.
Q. How can I rescind the sell of a property?
A: Dear Los Angeles: If what you say is true, that your Brother had you Mother sign a Power of Attorney knowing that your Mother lacked capacity, then this is a serious matter indeed. Particularly if there is an "inside" deal involved. The issues is that your Mother, as the property owner, holds the cause of action which her conservator would bring on her behalf. (Or, if there is no conservator, the court can appoint a guardian ad litem.) You should consult with an attorney right away. If you do not know where to find an attorney, you can try your local county bar association. Most local county bar associations in California have an attorney referral service that provides a referral to an attorney who provides a consultation for a small or no fee. I would also discuss this with the Seniors Services department in your county and/or the District Attorney as the transaction may qualify as financial elder abuse. As always, time is of the essence in these matters. Good luck.
Q. My late husband had a parcel of land in El Dorado County that we never bothered to put my name on. Must I probate it?
A: Fremont: To expand a bit on Ms. Dunn's comments. If the real property is worth less than $50,000, there is a affidavit procedure to transfer it to the appropriate heirs. This is the gross (before any liens or mortgages) value, and includes all his real property subject to probate. (We don't count property held in a Trust, or that transfers by operation of law, that is joint tenancy, community property with right of survivor ship, property subject to a transfer on death deed. ) If his real property exceeds that limit, you may be able to use a Spousal Property Petition, which is a lot quicker and cheaper than probate. Or, if your husband (or you and our husband) had a Trust, you may be able to include the property in with the Trust property using a Probate Code Section 850 petition. Even if probate is required, an attorney may agree to discount their fee or work on a limited scope basis, depending on how complicated the work required is. I suggest you discuss this in more detail with an experienced probate attorney. If you do not know where to find one, you can try your local bar association. Most county bar associations provide an attorney referral service which, for a small or no charge, matches you with an attorney for consultation. In my home county of Contra Costa it is $35.00 for a 30 minute consultation.
Q. Could you tell me the difference between a "Family Trust and the educational sub-trusts".
A: Plymouth, MI: "What's in a name?" as they say. Actually, it would be impossible to tell just from the name used, because Trusts generally define the terms like "educational sub-trust" or "Family Trust" in the trust document itself. (At least well drafted trusts do.) For example, I could say in a trust "A gift of $100,000.00 to the Use for Anything You Want for Trust" and then later put in a clause that states "The funds of the Use for Anything You Want for Trust shall be only used for educational expenses." What I can say is that a "sub-trust" normally indicates a trust which is formed and/or operates under the primary trust. I recommend that you have an attorney review the trust and let you know how it operates. You will want an attorney that is familiar with the laws of the state where the trust is being administered, and the laws of the state that controls the interpretation. (Which could be different.) I would expect it would take 2-3 hours of attorney time to review the trust and answer your questions. Best of Luck.
Q. A mobile home on ten acres is inherited by 4 people. I currently lives in the property and am one of the 4.
A: Dear Temecula: First, if you are one of the four owners (read on below about that), you would be a tenant in common. While the others can ask that you sign a lease, they cannot require it as each tenant in common has a right to occupy the property. But, be careful, without a lease or rental agreement you can not claim exclusive occupancy rights against the other owners. You mentioned that the property is in probate. If an order distributing the property to the four owners has not been issued by the court, and title transferred, on the court appointed administrator or executor has the ability to make decisions about the property. If you are one of the four heirs or beneficiaries, you should have gotten notice of the hearing that would have resulted in the order. It sounds like something is not quite right from your description. I recommend that you discuss this matter with an attorney right away and before you take any action. If you are, or will end up as, a co-owner, you and your partners should also have a tenancy in common agreement to set out your rights and responsibilities, as the default rules are not particularly good. The attorney can help you with this too. If you do not know where to find an attorney, you can start with your local county bar association. Most county bar associations provide an attorney referral service where, for a small or no fee, you receive a consultation with a qualified attorney. Good luck.
Q. Hello, I was named as an executor of a will for a friend in Ca. How much should I get paid for my services?
A: San Francisco: I am a little confused because you are mixing up the terminology. The person who manages a probate estate is called an administrator or an executor, depending if there was a will involved or not. However, the person who manages a Trust is called a Trustee. While and administrator, executor, and trustee all perform basically the same function, they rules under which they operate and how their fees are set are different. Executors and administrators, appointed by the court to manage an probate estate (no trust) are paid a percentage based on a fee base. The fee base is the value of the estate as shown in the Inventory and Appraisal, plus gains, receipts and additional property received and less losses. No reduction is made for any liens or encumbrances. (So if the estate has only a piece of real property worth $500,000 but with a mortgage of $300,000, the fee base is $500,000 because we do not reduce for the mortgage, which is an encumbrance.) Once the fee base is established, the fee is calculated as 4% of the first $100,000, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, 1% of the next $9 million, and a reasonable fee for the amounts over $9 million. (And, the executor or administrator is entitled to an extra fee if they perform any services out of the ordinary.) Trustee's fees are figured differently. First, you need to look at the Trust, which should have a provision stating how the Trustee's fee is calculated. If it does not then the Trustee is entitled to a "reasonable fee." Also, many Trust agreements will state only that the Trustee is entitled to a "reasonable" fee. How is a "reasonable fee" determined? Good question, and it can vary by the area in which the Trust is administered. Sometimes, the local rules of court provide a guideline. Another guideline is the amount charged by corporate trustees, which is normally and charge annual fee of 1% - 1.5% of the value of the Trust property at the start of the accounting year. I have also seen the statutory fee in a probate case used and then appropriately discounted to take into consideration that a Trust is easier to administer (in theory) than a probate matter. In the end, the trustee's fee should provide reasonable compensation in light of the work involved and time spent on the matter. (And, if that leaves you scratching your head, don't worry, it does the same to me as well.) Your best plan may be to discuss the matter with an attorney and ask them to render an opinion on what a reasonable fee would be. (Obviously, not the beneficiary's attorney who is required to try to get you to take the lowest fee possible as their duty is owed to the beneficiary, not you.) If you don't know where to find an attorney, you may wish to try your local county bar association. Most California county bar associations run a lawyer referral service, which entitles you to a consultation with an attorney for a small or no fee. The attorney may charge an hour or two of time to provide you with an opinion letter, but that is a charge the Trust should pay. In fact, you may wish to have an attorney generally review your work to see if you made an errors, as the fiduciary duty any executor, administrator or trustee is under is, as they say, a "tough Mistress" and penalty for errors can be severe. Best of luck.
Q. What happens if no comply after giving a affidavit of property no probate no will
A: Dear Walnut Creek: I am having trouble deciphering your question. I think you are asking "What happens if the holder of a Decedent's property refuses to turn the property over after being presented with an Affidavit under Probate Code section 13100?" Assuming that all the requirements of Probate Code section 13000 et seq were met, the next step would be to file an action for recovery of the property. If the court finds that the holder of the property acted unreasonably in refusing to turn over the property, the court can award reasonable attorney's fees under Probate Code section 13105. If you have further questions about the Probate Code section 13000 procedure, you may wish to discuss your matter with an attorney. Most county bar associations offer a lawyer referral service where, for a small or no fee, you receive a consultation with an attorney. In Contra Costa County, the fee is $35 for a 1/2 hour consultation. Good luck.
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