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Sarah Summerall

Managing Attorney, Firm Founder, Sister of Kelly

San Francisco Probate & Estate Planning Lawyer, Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Certified Specialist

My Philosophy as a Lawyer

 

Estate planning is really hard for clients - it's legally and emotionally complex, and it's expensive and time-consuming.   Our mission is to take that very complex task and make it as organized, friendly, and user-friendly as possible.   We honor that this is a courageous, kind, and completely optional process for our clients be going through.  We want to hold a welcoming space for people to complete this task that will really benefit their families and our communities.  

I believe the best estate plan is the plan that reflects what the client actually wants.  Usually what the client wants is to reduce the time, expense, and overall burden of administering an estate.    Death is already really hard, death with a two-year complicated task list (the probate process) is a burden no one should have to bear. 

Clients have told me that what is different about our practice is that we spend more time listening.  We listen to what the clients want and then double-check our understanding by asking some follow-up questions and providing additional information, then listening again.   

I strongly believe it is the attorney's role to make sure the client understands what they are signing, and those documents reflect the client's wishes.  I have had too many clients come in with a document that they signed where they did not understand the impact that document would have on their life, they did not really understand what they were signing, or it does not reflect what they wanted.  That's a professional failure on the attorney's part.  

Legal Education

I began my education at the University of Utah, where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Finance in 2005. Soon after, I moved to San Francisco and attended UC Hastings College of the Law until 2008. 

My first role as an attorney was working on a fellowship on the intersection of health and law.  Through this experience, I witnessed the power of preventative legal care - using legal tools and resources to reduce the overall cost, expense, and burden of legal services that are needed as a result of life's greatest challenges (i.e. health care crisis, births, deaths, taxes).  Estate planning is a great example of preventive legal care.  In addition, we have now integrated these practices and principles into our Community Initiatives to help leverage legal resources for our local community. 

I have worked since 2010 as an estate planning lawyer.  During that time, I represented clients on family law matters for about five years.  I took the probate specialist exam in 2017 and became a certified probate specialist soon thereafter.  Outside of estate planning, I have represented clients with probate and trust administration, trust litigation, and contract disputes.   While having a background in these areas of law has been very useful in creating best practices and policies for our office, my true passion is in preventive law, and our firm is dedicated to mastering those services. 

 

Q & A

When you think of your practice, what makes you especially proud?

 

The number of referrals I get from previous clients. It is flattering when someone trusts me enough to recommend me to their most cherished friends and family members.

I am very proud of our diverse legal team.   I feel very lucky and blessed that so many highly-skilled humans from different backgrounds have decided to work with us.   

I am proud of our community initiatives.   So many of the nice things we have in the world are the result of many people making an effort to try to make the world a bit better.  I hope we are able to contribute in some meaningful way through our work.    

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 children about ducks together. 

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.  He runs a cyber-security firm and we enjoy strategizing the best methods for running professional service organizations. 

I am very close with my family which includes two brothers whom I convinced to move to the Bay Area from Washington DC and New York City. I have two more siblings and a pile of nieces in nephews in Utah as well. 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 an ENFP and he is an ISTJ so as different as can be), but that is what makes us a great team.

I grew up in Northern Utah (think Napoleon Dynamite land), but I am not a Mormon. My father is a rocket engineer, and they let you blow up anything you want in the desert in Utah so that is why we lived there.  I moved to the Bay Area for law school in 2005 and have been here ever since. 

I had three boys in four years, so our house is always a party.   

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. 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.

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