Sarah Summerall

Managing Attorney, Firm Founder, Sister of Kelly

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 provide a safe, warm and welcoming space, in order to make the discussion difficult and emotional time of losing a loved one (or even thinking about leaving your family behind) 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.

Legal Education

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. We have now integrated these practices and principles into our Community Initiatives in order to help leverage resources for our local community. 

 

Q & A

How are you a helpful resource to your clients? Why should they hire you for estate planning? Why should your clients work with 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 client’s 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 five years or so to make sure that they get a reminder to double check that if they got any new assets, those assets are in the trust.

Also, if your situation is simple and you are tempted to use Nolo, we have very competitive pricing to get this project done for you. The benefit of having an attorney involved is that then you have the backup of a third party disinterested witness that can testify to your capacity and wishes at the time, we can run a quick “sanity check” to make we do not see any red-flags with your plan, and we can walk you through the complex world of trust funding, narrowing down a simple, easy to follow strategy that will keep your assets aligned with your goals in estate planning.

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 weekends).

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 leading a small firm 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.

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 knew my now-husband had a chance with me when he invited me to look at ducks with him for a first “maybe-date.”  Most of his knowledge of ducks comes from hunting them, which is different, but now we teach our oldest son Calvin (born in 2018) about ducks together. Our younger son was born in 2019 and is a bit young for bird watching, but we are sure he will start soon.

My husband hasn’t convinced me to start shooting ducks yet, but he is slowly convincing me to eat spicier food, he loves cooking traditional Chinese dishes and is helping me learn Mandarin so that he and our sons don’t have a secret language to use against me.

I am very close with my two brothers who I convinced to move to the Bay Area from Washington DC and New York City. I love working side-by-side with my brother Kelly every day. In many ways we are total opposites (if you know Myers-Briggs I am and ENFP and he is an ISTJ so as different as can be), but that is what makes us a great team.  I feel incredibly lucky that he was willing to quit his fancy corporate job and jump in and run Summerall Law for me when I had my oldest son and now watching him shine as an uncle to my two boys is one of the highlights of my weekends.

Because we are so close, I have been deeply affected by Kelly’s journy as a transsexual (he was born my sister but is now my brother). One of my favorite transitioning stories, that is easy to share via You tube, is when my brother was asked to do an It Gets Better video for 24 Hour Fitness when he worked there 10 years ago. 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).

My youngest brother Sam also lives in the Bay Area and is studying to become a therapist. His experience battling leukemia in 2007 occurred right when I started my research on medical-legal partnerships, 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 brother safe and healthy. Sam wrote a musical about the experience of having cancer, and there is a trailer 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 grew up in Northern Utah (think Napoleon Dynamite land), but I am not a Mormon. I have lived in the Bay Area since 2005, and have lived in San Francisco, Redwood City, and the beautiful Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood in Oakland.

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 $10,000. 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.

Book Your Complimentary

Appointment Now

SummerallLaw.com   |   415.944.9406   |  3873 Piedmont Ave. Suite 8, Oakland, CA 94611

Attorney Advertising Notice: Some of the information on this website is considered advertising under applicable California law and may be considered advertising under your state's laws and ethical rules. Prior results do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome.   |   Additional Disclaimers Here