Law Offices of

Margaret M. O'Dowd

Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law

Margaret M. O’Dowd is a Certified Specialist

Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law, The California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization


When you need a California estate planning, trust and probate lawyer who works directly with their clients, contact the Law Offices of Margaret M. O’Dowd. We represent clients in the Superior Courts in San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo, and Contra Costa Counties. Call today to arrange a consultation or find out more about our services and rates. Our office hours are Monday – Friday, 9:30am – 5:30pm, and other times by appointment.

Estate Planning

Estate Planning is more than just preparation of the documents.  Estate Planning is a process whereby we assist you in reviewing your assets and your beneficiaries and determining the best distribution of your assets at the time of your death.  Distribution of your assets can be designated to relatives, friends or charities.  You may also wish to provide for a disabled family member through a Special Needs Trust.  You need to select who would be the best person to be your Executor and/or Trustee and/or your Agent should you become too ill to manage your own personal and financial affairs.

If you do not have estate planning documents, your beneficiaries and the Administrator of your Estate are determined by law. 

That might not be the people that you would select.  We are here to educate you about the law and to help you make the decisions that are right for you and your family.

Estate Planning is not only planning for the distribution of your assets at the time of death. Married people with young children need to nominate a guardian who will take care of their children in the event of their death.  People are living longer today.  Estate Planning documents are essential in the event that you cannot manage your affairs due to illness or lack of capacity. Having the right person in place to assist you in the event of illness is critical.


If the total appraised value of your estate exceeds $150,000 at the time of your death and you do not have a trust, your estate will be subject to probate.

It is extremely helpful to have an attorney to assist you with a Probate. Probate is the court proceeding for distribution of an estate. A Petition for Probate is filed with the Court. The assets have to be appraised. The Creditors have to receive notice so they can file their claims. The Executor or Administrator may have to sell or dispose of the assets.

After all of the tasks are completed, the Executor or Administrator of the Estate files a Petition for Final Distribution which includes an accounting and a proposed distribution to beneficiaries. Probate can be a long process as it is court supervised and the timing is subject to the availability of the court. You can benefit from our experience with probate as we can help the process go as smoothly as possible given the legal requirements.

Trust Administration

It is highly recommended that a Trustee seek the help of an attorney for a trust administration. A trustee has to perform all of the same tasks as the Executor or Administrator in a probate mentioned above. A trust administration is usually not court supervised and therefore, you do not have the benefit of court approval of all of your actions unless you choose to obtain court approval.

Seeking the advice of an attorney will help you to follow the proper procedures and help to protect you from liability for breach of your fiduciary duty as the Trustee. Attorneys’ fees for services rendered to a Trustee are usually paid from the Trust assets.


What happens if you have no estate planning documents and you become too ill to take care of yourself? A conservator may be appointed for a person who is unable to provide for their personal needs and/or who is unable to manage their financial resources. A conservatorship is a court proceeding and the conservatorship remains under court supervision until terminated. Because a conservatorship results in the termination of a person’s rights to manage their own affairs, it is a very complicated proceeding. A conservatorship is also very expensive because of all of the legal requirements.

It would be difficult to petition for a conservatorship without the assistance of an attorney. We have experience representing the conservator and also as a court appointed attorney for the conservatee.

We also assist parents with Limited Conservatorships for a disabled child who reaches age 18. We will help you to evaluate alternatives to conservatorship. If a conservatorship is the only alternative remaining, then we can assist you in petitioning the court.

“Thank you for all you do for us.”

Conservator, Client

Law Offices of Margaret M. O’Dowd

350 Sansome St. Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: 415-442-5030 Fax: 415-442-5070