Attorney Sarah Summerall
Oakland Probate & Estate Planning Lawyer
I am extremely dedicated to my clients, ensuring they receive the best
legal support for their specific case. Since opening my practice, I have
had the opportunity to work with hundreds of estate planning clients coming
from different countries, professions, financial situations, and religions.
This enabled me to gain an extensive amount of legal experience and insight,
effectively equipping me to handle nearly any type of legal matter within
estate planning law. I am grateful to every one of my clients for allowing
me to learn from their cases. No matter what kind of legal matter I am
handling, I make sure to learn and grow from it.
My Philosophy as a Lawyer
Clients come to me when they want more than just "cookie-cutter estate
plans." I understand how to tailor my services and legal support
to their specific case, allowing them to customize their estate plan to
their exact needs. I have the legal knowledge to help my clients
avoid probate, which can lead to costly fees and unnecessary charges. One thing that
sets me apart from other attorneys is my commitment to my clients.
Even after they no longer need my immediate services, I always make myself
available to them. I operate on an open door policy, which means they
can come to me whenever they have questions or concerns about any legal
matter. My goal is to make this difficult and emotional time as easy as
possible on my clients. By predicting their future legal needs, I can
provide comprehensive support that benefits them in the long run.
I began my education at University of Utah, where I earned my Bachelor
of Science in finance in 2005. Soon after, I moved to San Francisco and
attended UC Hasting College of the Law until 2008. Once I received my
Juris Doctor, I began working in the legal field, offering my estate planning
services to clients throughout Alameda County.
I also worked on a fellowship on the intersection of health and law, which
led me to found my own non-profit organization known as the Just Health
Foundation. The foundation utilized a network of law students, medical
students, attorneys, and health advocates to create an online database
of legal information designed to empower patients. With this information,
they could much more effectively fight for their legal rights. Through
this practice, I learned how to provide preventative legal care for my clients.
Q & A
How are you a helpful resource to your clients? Why should they hire you,
instead of saving money by trying to get through their situation alone?
From my client's perspective, they often seek out professional estate
planning services because they have some aspect of their estate that makes
the "one size fits all" solutions not work for their family.
Whether it is unique assets, international premarital agreements, family
members who are not biologically related, marriages that are not formerly
dissolved, or other issues that are unique to their situation, the cookie-cutter
templates just does not quite fit.
Based on my experience, the benefit of having an attorney prepare your
estate plan is that I make sure to take care of my client's most important
matters personally. Not actually transferring your house into your trust
is a big deal, sometimes a $40,000 probate fee big deal, so I make sure
it gets done and I get a copy of the deed before I close the file. My
dad is a rocket engineer, and I grew up with a respect for things actually
working, not theoretically working, or working sometimes, but actually
working. I want my clients' estate plans to actually work for them.
I don't charge more money for these services, but I do gain satisfaction
from knowing when I go to bed at night that things are functional and
organized. I also safeguard my clients plans by following up with them
every couple of years to make sure that they get a reminder to double
check that if they got any new assets, those assets are in the trust.
The other benefit of using an attorney is being able to reduce the overall
anxiety and confusion around preparing and using the documents in an estate
plan. What happens to your children, spouse, or family when you are incapacitated
is a big deal. It is not a time for guess work or for an "I think
this will work" approach to legal documents. I enjoy educating my
clients about how to make the legal and financial part of this process
work as smoothly as possible so they know they are prepared to respond
in case of an emergency.
They also know I have their back. I prepared their documents, have a copy
on hand, and am prepared to respond to any questions or concerns that
come up when the need to use them.
Why do you care about your clients? How do you evidence this care throughout the case?
I love estate planning. I get to work with awesome people who are polite,
caring, and doing their best to provide for their family members. These
are people who don't want to be rude, even when they are dead.
I also very much respect how difficult it can be to set aside time to do
an estate plan. In order to support my clients in this important endeavor
I try to make it as easy on them as possible. I meet people at a location
close to their home (or at their home when that makes sense) at a time
that is convenient for them (including after hours and on one weekend a month).
I might make more money doing litigation out of my Oakland office, but
I would be dealing with angry people all the time. I would much rather
spend my time doing a little driving, but getting to work with the nicest
people in the world.
When you think of your practice, what makes you especially proud?
The number of referrals I get from previous clients. It is extremely flattering
when someone trusts me enough to recommend me to their most cherished
friends and family members.
I am also very proud when I get involved in cases where no one else would
take the matter, but I feel like the client was wronged, and I get to
have the honor of standing up for them. I very much enjoy that working
as a solo practitioner means I can decide to take on these financial risks,
because I think it is right without having to discuss it as a financial
matter with anyone else.
Have you had any articles, blogs, etc. published? If so, please provide
us the titles/links to these publications.
My main publication is the
Just Health. There is about 500 pages of legal information currently available.
I wrote a chapter in a textbook, Advocacy Strategies for Health and Mental
Health Professionals: From Patients to Policies. The chapter is called, "
Is There a Lawyer in the House? When to Work with an Attorney
"; a guide for health care professionals on how they can use legal tools
and health policy to address client concerns.
I am currently working on a book called "10 Things I Learned about
Men from my Sister Becoming One."
Tell us some things about your personal life.
I am a huge nerd. My most common nerd-behavior is birdwatching. I have
seen about 215 species of birds worldwide and am always on the lookout
for the next new species, or the next new adorable thing birds are doing.
In my opinion, the world's cutest bird is the Ruddy Duck. The world's
second cutest bird is the Bufflehead.
I am very close with my family. I have an older brother who is transsexual
(born my sister now my brother) who is also a lawyer and lives locally.
We do a lot of jogging, hiking, card playing type activities together.
Generally, he is the best big brother in the world. One of my favorite
transitioning stories, that is easy to share via You tube, is when my
brother was asked to do a
It Gets Better video for 24 Hour Fitness. He was really excited because when you are
trans, it is actually much more difficult to "come out" to your
co-workers in a casual way. The only problem is they cut-out the parts
where it is clear he is trans, and he comes across as a gay man. He got
a lot of high fives and butt slaps after, but it really did not communicate
the message or explain why, for instance, he has a wife and played on
the girls basketball team. He is Kelly, Corporate Counsel, in this
video (the first male in the video).
I have three great siblings that live in Utah. My youngest brother Sam
is writing a musical about his experience with leukemia. Sam and Kelly
experienced these two major health concerns right when I started my research
on medical-legal partnerships (and within a month of each other), which
is one of the reasons I have so much respect for the importance of quality
professional services when there is an emergency in the family. I am very
grateful for the skilled doctors, therapists, nursed, and the a whole
community of people who helped keep my brothers safe and healthy. Sam
has a trailer of his cancer musical available
here. It has shots from when he was being treated which are pretty sad, but
if you just want to hear the pretty songs, you can fast forward to 2 minutes
30 seconds and then it is more fun.
I have an adorable stubborn old beagle who comes to work with me. Her name is Roxy.
I grew up in Northern Utah (think Napoleon Dynamite land), but I am not
a Mormon. I have lived in the Bay Area for 8 years, and moved to the beautiful
Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood about 2 years ago.
How do you go above & beyond for your clients?
From the attorney perspective, what sets me apart is that I am providing
the same or better services for preparing estate plans without charging
$4000-$7000. Legally, you have a certain number of options when doing
an estate plan to protect your assets. The trusts they are preparing are
the same as the trusts I am preparing, however, my personal values dictate
that I keep my overhead low and charge a fair fee.
The feedback I receive from my clients is that they recommend me to their
friends and family because they enjoy working with me as person. I am
light-hearted, friendly, and spend time learning about my clients lives
and family. During the time we spend together, we laugh, occasionally
cry, and generally enjoy each other's company. From a client perspective,
what you are getting as an estate plan is going to be fairly similar no
matter where you go, however, what sets me apart is they also get to enjoy
the couple of hours we will spend together during the process.
What do you discuss at your initial consultation with a client?
I structure my client consultations to maximize the benefit of time they
spend with me. Before we meet, I send an intake form that explains what
information I need from them, how much the services will cost, and what
they can expect from the process. This means by the time we meet, the
clients have a clear picture of what we are going to discuss and aren’t
concerned about being talked into something more expensive or complicated
than what they need. The benefit of this approach is that we spend the
time during the intake on the questions or concerns that are unique to
their situation rather than going over the basics such as fees, time,
and needed information.
I am here to protect your investment in life. If you would like to learn
more about my foundation or legal services, please
contact Summerall Law, P.C.
at (415) 275-3283 today.