As reflected in the representative cases listed below, The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper focuses primarily on Estate Litigation; Trust Litigation; Estate, Probate, and Trust Mediation; and Estate, Probate and Trust Appeals.
In re Estate of Michael K. McShane
- Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BP125367
- Court of Appeals, Second District, Division Five, Case No. B261360
- Supreme Court of California, en banc, Case No. S232339
Case Summary: Surviving spouse filed a Petition for Determination of Entitlement to Estate Distribution. The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper (“TC Law”) jointly represented the four nonprofits named in Mr. McShane’s Will. The surviving spouse, who inherited over $6M from her late husband’s Estate, after only eleven months of marriage, challenged $500,000 in gifts that were to be divided among four nonprofit organizations.
Despite all reasonable efforts to settle – both informally and through mediation – the surviving spouse demanded that the case be tried. TC Law took the case to trial, and the Court awarded the four nonprofits the full $500,000 requested, plus over $150,000 in interest.
The surviving spouse appealed to the Second Appellate District, Division Five, and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision.
The surviving spouse next petitioned for review to the California Supreme Court, and was summarily denied relief.
**TC Law promptly and effectively enforced the judgment, resulting in the surviving spouse paying the full $500,000, plus the full amount of interest owed, to each nonprofit within one week of the California Supreme Court’s decision.
American Lung Association, et al. v. American Lung Association of California, et al.
- Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG05228892
- Court of Appeals, First District, Division Five, Case No. A147428 – PENDING
Case Summary: On behalf of the American Lung Association in California, The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper (“TC Law”) filed a Motion to Enforce the Consent Judgment against a local nonprofit, asserting that the local nonprofit had breached several provisions of a mutually agreed upon settlement agreement approved by the Court (i.e., the Consent Judgment). The Motion contended that, due to the local nonprofit’s multiple breaches, TC Law’s client had suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, among other things.
Due to the complexity and uniqueness of the matter, the case was assigned to a Special Master under C.C.P. Section 638. On 10/26/15, the Special Master ruled in favor of TC Law’s client on all issues except for one minor item, and ordered the local nonprofit to submit to an independent audit of its financial records, pay over $600,000 in compensatory damages and interest, as well as 100% of the attorneys’ fees requested.
The local nonprofit subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied. The Special Master granted the Motion for Attorneys’ Fees filed by TC Law and ordered the local nonprofit to pay approximately 94% of the attorneys’ fees requested.
**The local nonprofit has now appealed the ruling to the First Appellate District, Division Five, which is currently pending.
In re Cecilia T. Potempa Trust
- Ventura County Superior Court Case No. 56-2014-00459801
Case Summary:The settlor’s niece filed a Petition to Determine the Validity of Trust Provisions, asserting that the Trust Amendment, which significantly reduced the bequest to the settlor’s niece and inserted several bequests to charitable organizations, was invalid due to undue influence and lack of mental capacity.
The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper successfully represented the American Lung Association in California during multi-party settlement negotiations over two mediation sessions, which ultimately resulted in court approval to modify the Trust Agreement by, among other things, making $1M in immediate distributions to the charitable beneficiaries.
In re Fred & Shirley Warzin Trust
- Riverside County Superior Court Case No. INP 1300183
Case Summary: Mrs. Warzin’s stepdaughter filed a Petition for an Order Determining the Validity of a Purported Amendment, wherein she alleged that a handwritten document she located in Mrs. Warzin’s home constituted an amendment to the Trust Agreement. The original Trust Agreement expressly disinherited the stepdaughter and all other issue, and provided that the Trust residue was to be divided equally between two charities. The purported amendment left the entire Trust corpus to the decedents’ issue and nothing to charity.
The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper (“TC Law”) jointly represented the two charities named in the original Trust Agreement through discovery, multiple court appearances, and extensive settlement negotiations, through which TC Law was able to secure very favorable settlement terms on behalf of the two charities on an expedited basis.
In re Beck Ute Trust
- Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 30-2013-00693491
Case Summary: The Trustee filed a Petition for Order Determining Question of Construction of Trust Instrument due to the presence of handwritten interlineations and notations that the settlor allegedly made in the body of the Trust document. The Trustee sought an order determining whether these interlineations and notations amended the dispositive provisions of the Trust Agreement. The original terms of the Trust Agreement provided for 50 percent of the residue to be divided among the settlor’s two grandchildren and the remaining 50 percent to be distributed to a nationally known charity. The handwritten marks purported to reduce the charity’s 50 percent share down to 25 percent, with the remaining 25 percent to be distributed to an alleged friend.
The Law Office of Tara L. Cooper (“TC Law”) represented the charity through court filings, appearances, discovery, and settlement negotiations. Based on discovery indicating that the settlor was not mentally capable of amending the Trust Agreement, and or it was not her true intent to amend her Trust to benefit her alleged friend, TC Law was able to swiftly and efficiently settle the matter with little impact on the 50 percent residual bequest to the charity.
**Later, the Trustee located substantial newly discovered assets, and the settlor’s alleged friend demanded a modification of the court approved settlement agreement. TC Law effectively utilized the terms of the settlement agreement to promptly dispose of the alleged friend’s claim.