In the Media

Terry Franklin Discusses History of His Fourth Great-Grandfather’s Contested Will on The Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast

Partner Terry Franklin was a guest on The Reduced Shakespeare Company podcast chronicling the discovery of his fourth great-grandfather’s will and the unexpected will contest that threatened to keep his fourth great-grandmother and their eight children and six grandchildren enslaved. Franklin recorded the episode “John Sutton’s Will” on the 174th anniversary of the day his fourth great-grandfather made the will.

Listen to the podcast.

This Defender of Justice – Terry Franklin Guests on “Relatable with Stephanie Michele” Show

Partner Terry Franklin was a guest on “Relatable with Stephanie Michele,” a weekly YouTube livestream show spotlighting exceptional human encounters – the people who make them happen and the actions it takes to create them. On the episode, “This Defender of Justice,” Franklin shares the story of his fourth great-grandfather, John Sutton, a white farmer in Jacksonville, Florida, who owned and had a love relationship with his fourth great-grandmother, Lucy, a “mulatto slave.” John created a will in 1846 that emancipated Lucy and her eight children and her six grandchildren. Franklin retraces the path to his discovery of the will, and the unexpected will contest that threatened to keep his family enslaved. He explains how those discoveries helped him understand that he has a mission to “help bend the arc of history towards justice” by sharing the story of his family’s escape from slavery.

Watch the episode here.

“Disinherited Beneficiaries May Challenge Trusts, Court Says” – Bob Sacks Weighs in on Ruling in the Daily Journal

On January 23, 2020, the California Supreme Court reversed an appellate ruling and confirmed that probate courts may hear challenges from disinherited beneficiaries who allege they were removed from testamentary instruments as the result of foul play or incompetence.

In the Daily Journal article “Disinherited Beneficiaries May Challenge Trusts, Court Says,” Partner Bob Sacks commented on the ruling, stating “In the trust litigation world most practitioners thought the court of appeal decision was shocking, frankly, so most people will be very pleased with the court’s decision that, yes, folks disinherited can challenge amendments in probate court.”

The decision allows plaintiff Joan Barefoot’s trust case (Barefoot v. Jennings) to proceed, in which she alleges amendments to a family trust that came late in her mother’s life and removed Ms. Barefoot as a beneficiary and as the successor trustee of the instrument were invalid.

More broadly, the ruling clarifies a point of law that came into question when the lower courts found Barefoot lacked standing to bring her claims in probate court because she was technically no longer a beneficiary of the family trust. Section 17200 of the Probate Code, under which Barefoot sued, specifically lists trustees and beneficiaries as proper petitioners in disputes over “internal affairs” of trusts, but doesn’t reference disinherited beneficiaries. The Court of Appeal decision had concluded that disinherited beneficiaries would have to file a civil lawsuit, not a probate petition, to challenge the validity of trust documents.

Sacks added that probate judges are the best arbiters for torts over testamentary instruments, as they hear such challenges frequently. “The decision brings really needed clarity as to which court is supposed to handle these contests,” he said.

Read the full Daily Journal article here. (Subscription required)

Meg Lodise Co-Presents Webinar – “I’m President and Sole Trustee: Resolving Conflicts When Fiduciaries Hold Entity Interests”

Partner Meg Lodise co-presented the webinar “I’m President and Sole Trustee: Resolving Conflicts When Fiduciaries Hold Entity Interests,” sponsored by American Law Institute and American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. The CLE-accredited webinar examined possible ramifications of an individual acting in multiple fiduciary capacities and how they can be resolved, including:

  • Implications of trusts holding closely held business interests
  • Conflicts of interests
  • Competing duties of a fiduciary to its beneficiaries as compared to a corporate officer to the business
  • Other ethical and practical problems that can arise when serving in both roles
  • Various remedies available in these situations

Click here to download the webinar (purchase required).

Terry Franklin Interviewed by Becker Group Business Strategy Podcast

Partner Terry Franklin was a guest on the Becker Group Business Strategy podcast discussing his Harvard Law experience as a person of color, his friendship and thoughts on Michelle Obama, his perspectives on U.S. policies, and the phrase “Make American Great Again” and what that means for different constituencies. Terry also shares his family history and how it connects to his current expertise and leadership in trusts and estates law.

Listen to the podcast

Terry Franklin Featured in Daily Journal “In Recess” Profile

Partner Terry Franklin was interviewed by Daily Journal for the feature profile, “Tree of Life: Lawyer’s knowledge of trust and estate law helped him find deep meaning in his own history.”

In 2001, Terry came across an abstract of his fourth great-grandfather’s, John Sutton, will that was executed 173 years ago, and set out to discover the relationship that shaped his family’s history. Sutton’s will outlined the sale of livestock to fund the relocation of his “mulatto slave Lucie,” Terry’s fourth great-grandmother, her eight children and six grandchildren to freedom.

“All we knew was he was an owner setting free a woman, and her eight kids and her six grandkid s,” Terry explained. “But whether he had a wife and family of his own, whether he just did it out of the goodness of his heart, what the meaning and intent was behind it, we really don’t know.”

Terry traced the will to Duval County, Florida and then in 2014, while at an American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) conference, he and his husband embarked on a road trip to Duval County to find the original will and accompanying court documents.

The documents did not indicate Sutton had another spouse and named a trustee to ensure the safety of Lucie, her children and great-grandchildren. Terry discovered Sutton’s brother had contested the will and a trial took place. The trial transcript showed his brother was unsuccessful and Lucie and her family were set free.

Sacks Glazier Franklin &Lodise partner Meg Lodise attended the ACTEC conference with Terry and recalled his genealogy road trip. Noting will contests are very much a part of Terry’s day-to-day as a trusts and estates litigator, “How coincidental is it that he’s now going back and looking in his family tree…and there’s a will contest in his very own family tree.”

“As a probate litigator, Franklin approaches his family history through the lens of probate litigation,” explained Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP partner Cynthia E. Tobisman. Noting Terry is considered “one of the really great probate litigators in practice right now,” Tobisman said she met Terry at an event where she was riveted by his story.

Admitting he fell into trusts and estates litigation by happenstance, Terry said if he had chosen a different path, he wouldn’t have understood the documents he unearthed.

“I was meant to have those documents,” said Terry, who’s since written several articles about his search and has begun work on a novel. “I was mean to have my ancestors -through my DNA – express to me that there’s more to this story.”

One of Terry’s biggest takeaways, he said, is that we’re all living in the midst of history. He also posed the question, “What is each of us doing to help bend the arc of history towards justice in the long term?”

View the full article. (May require subscription)

Terry Franklin Featured in Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Member Spotlight in Honor of Black History Month

Partner Terry Franklin was recognized in the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s (LACBA) Member Spotlight, celebrating Bar leaders in honor of Black History Month. LACBA acknowledged Terry for his more than 25 years of successfully handling complex trust and estates and probate litigation, disputes and appeals, as well as his impact on the community.

Notably, Terry serves on numerous American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) committees where he is dedicated to improving the level of membership and engagement among diverse and minority lawyers. He also serves as Co-President of the Board of Directors of Outfest, the leading LGBTQ arts organization. Terry has been awarded top industry rankings, including “Most Influential Minority Lawyers” by Los Angeles Business Journal; Chambers and Partners’ High Net Worth guide in Private Wealth Disputes; Southern California Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America; and Best Lawyers “Lawyer of the Year” in 2016 for Trusts & Estates Litigation – Los Angeles.

Additionally, last year, Terry was invited to participate in “HistoryMakers,” the nation’s largest African-American oral history project, where his interview about his life achievements and experience will be archived at the Library of Congress. Terry has made it his mission to help “Bend the Arc Of History Towards Justice” through projects related to a 2014 discovery of his fourth great-grandfather’s will that emancipated his fourth great-grandmother, a “mulatto slave,” and their eight children and six grandchildren. Terry has given more than two dozen presentations across the country to lawyer’s associations and history/genealogy groups, as well as working on several writing projects in his spare time, including a novel and a miniseries script, both titled, “The Last Will of Lucy Sutton.”

View Terry Franklin’s full LACBA Member Spotlight

Southern California Super Lawyers Profiles Terry Franklin in “Last Will, New Testament”

Partner Terry Franklin was featured in Southern California Super Lawyers magazine discussing his search for the story behind the relationship between his fourth great-grandfather and his “mulatto” slave Lucy, and the will that set his ancestors free. Mr. Franklin describes his journey to obtain a digital copy of the handwritten will, including an inventory, an appraisal, court documents and proof that it was in fact, a contested will. During this process, Mr. Franklin began writing the novel The Last Will of Lucy Sutton and is also collaborating on a script for a proposed three-part miniseries about Lucy.

Read the article

Partner Robert Sacks Interviewed in Daily Journal article on Baby Boomers Causing an Increase in Trust and Estate Planning and Litigation

As the parents of baby boomers pass away, their children are often left fighting over their estates, with many attorneys seeing an increase in litigation. In a recent Daily Journal article titled, “More Older People Increases Trust, Estate Cases,” Partner Robert Sacks confirmed that the changing demographics and “the enormous generation of wealth” in California has spawned an increase in cases. The aging population is generating a vast transfer in wealth that is causing rifts in families, often leading to the courtroom.

California Supreme Court Rules that Wills May be Amended After Death

On Monday, July 27, the California Supreme Court ruled that a will may be reformed after one’s death if there is clear and convincing extrinsic evidence that the will does not accurately reflect the testator’s wishes and what the wishes were at the time the will was drafted. Historically, such evidence was considered inadmissible to change an unambiguous will.

  • The testator, Irving Duke, wrote in his 1984 will that his estate, valued at more than $5 million, go to his wife if he predeceased her. It set forth that if he and his wife were to “die at the same moment”, the entire estate would be split between two charities. The will did not provide for what would happen in the event that he survived his wife, which is what happened.Applying 50 years of precedent, the trial and appellate court found that the will unambiguously created an intestacy and the estate was to be distributed to Irving Duke’s heirs at law. The charities, however, disputed this conclusion and appealed to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the California Supreme Court overturned established precedent as to whether evidence of mistake can be admitted to challenge a will clear on its face.Margaret Lodise of Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise and Mary-Christine Sungaila of Haynes and Boone represented several of the heirs in the matter. The case will now go back to the trial court where Ms. Lodise will represent the family members in applying the newly created law to the facts of this case.Ms. Lodise stated that, “Although we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse a long-standing precedent, we believe the facts of this case are unlikely to support actual reformation of this will at the trial court level.”The case is Estate of Duke, 2015 S.O.S. 3800.

Law360 Features Terrence Franklin in Minority Powerbrokers Q & A

Partner Terrence Franklin is featured in Law360’s Minority Powerbrokers Q&A focusing on diverse senior level attorneys and the tremendous impact they are having on the legal industry. With a quarter century of experience, Mr. Franklin notes that he is one of the very few African Americans practicing in the trusts and estates litigation field and advises how minorities can move up the ranks in their firms.

  • As a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and the only African-American fellow, Mr. Franklin is working to develop programs to widen the pipeline for prospective fellows, acting as an ambassador for the trusts and estates practice area, especially to diverse attorneys, and assisting in improving opportunities for diversity and inclusion.

To create more diversity among partner ranks in law firms, he advises to “be broad-minded in considering how the varied experiences of minority candidates can help to contribute to the firm’s success,” as well as introduce associates to clients so they can build relationships that can generate business opportunities.

Daily Journal Profiles Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise’s Flourishing Litigation Practice in Southern California

In the Daily Journal article, “Emotional Rollercoaster”, Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise attorneys discuss the thriving business for trusts, estates and conservatorship disputes in Southern California, which are at the heart of the firm’s litigation practice. The firm represents both sides of the equation in trusts, estates and conservatorship disputes, counting major universities, charities and banks among its clients.

  • “We’re a litigation firm that specializes in trust and estates as opposed to trust and estate lawyers who do litigation,” Partner Kenneth M. Glazier said. “That may seem like a distinction without a difference but we’re litigators first and foremost.”While involved with a number of high-profile affairs, the firm’s attorneys remain a grounded team. One highly publicized matter involves the late Michael Jackson, where Partner Margaret Lodise was appointed by the court to represent the financial interest of Jackson’s three children in his estate.While the firm advises clients about the financial and emotional costs of taking a case to court, “the firm will ultimately go to trial for clients if that’s what they choose,” said Partner Terrence Franklin. Furthermore, as society evolves, the firm stays apprised on “hot topics” in their practice including digital assets such as Facebook accounts, Yahoo accounts and bank accounts.Read profile

Lisa Wick Publish Interview with the Honorable Reva Goetz for the American Bar Association

Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise Attorneys G. Lisa Wick recently interviewed the Honorable Reva Goetz of the Los Angeles Superior Court Central Division’s Probate Department as part of a series of candid interviews with probate judges across the country for the American Bar Association’s Trust and Estate Litigation Section. In the interview, Judge Goetz provided invaluable insight into her challenging, yet positive experience serving on the probate bench. “It is challenging intellectually and I like that,” says Judge Goetz. “I like how it is collaborative and cooperative, and enjoy working with the probate bar.”

  • Additionally, Judge Goetz expanded on the intellectual challenges for probate practitioners as well as civil litigators who find themselves in probate, offered insider advice for all lawyers and discussed trending issues in the probate courts.Read full interview.

Newsweek “Controlling Britney” February 11, 2008

In the context of Britney Spears parents taking control of her financial matters, Ms. Lodise discussed the legal wrangling involved and obstacles faced when a person seeks to take over another adults affairs. Ms. Lodise answered a series of questions examining the two types of conservatorships; steps to establish or defend against a conservatorship; and the legal rights a conservator has over a conservatee.

Terry Franklin Interviewed on When It Mattered Podcast – Uncovering a pre-Civil War era will takes an estate lawyer deep into his family’s history with slavery and helps him reconcile with his sexual identity

Partner Terry Franklin was a recent guest on When It Mattered, a podcast examining how leaders are forged in critical moments and how they overcome adversity. Terry discussed how uncovering his family history transformed his mission as a trust and estate lawyer, and in an unexpected way, also helped him come to terms with his own journey as an African American gay man searching for his identity.

Listen to Terry’s episode.

Terry Franklin Profiled in ABA Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Newsletter

Partner Terry Franklin was featured in the article “Terry Franklin – SOGI Commissioner and Man Truly Worth Knowing” in the American Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) newsletter, The Equalizer. The interview follows Terry’s path to the legal profession, discovery of his fourth great-grandfather’s will and how that shifted his understanding of what history means to him and the importance of being involved in diversity activities, and more.

Read the full profile.

Terry Franklin Featured in ABA Journal Article “Law Imitates Life: A trusts and estates lawyer unearths his family’s past”

Partner Terry Franklin was featured in the ABA Journal “Character Witness” column which explores legal and societal issues through the first-person lens of attorneys in the trenches who are, inter alia, on a mission to defend liberty and pursue justice.

In the article, “Law Imitates Life: A trusts and estates lawyer unearths his family’s past,” Franklin shares the story of his family’s emancipation from slavery nearly two decades before the end of the Civil War, and how this has shaped his life’s mission and career as a trusts and estates litigator.

Click here to read the article.

Partner Meg Lodise Acknowledged as Influential Attorney in Law360 Article

In the Law360 Q&A “Trial Pros: Haynes & Boone’s M.C. Sungaila,” Sungaila acknowledged Meg Lodise as a trial attorney whose knowledge and skill impressed her in court. “I have had the good fortune to work with many trial lawyers at the top of their game. Meg Lodise, with whom I worked on a California Supreme Court will interpretation case, is very good at presenting and preserving legal arguments at trial,” said Sungaila.

  • With more than 20 years’ experience representing beneficiaries and trustees, Ms. Lodise handles a range of matters pertaining to estate, trust and conservatorship litigation.

Los Angeles Times “Wrangling Over Michael Jackson Estate Could Revive Sales of Online Wills” July 14, 2009

Michael Jackson’s death will create more awareness of the importance of possessing a current will and trust, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article, “Wrangling Over Michael Jackson Estate Could Revive Sales of Online Wills.” Partner Robert Sacks discussed the pros and cons to producing your own will using form documents found online versus drafting a will with an attorney’s assistance. He explained that in straightforward situations, an online or handwritten will may be acceptable but generally, people with significant assets or who believe there may be possible challenges to their estate plan, should use a competent estate planning lawyer. An attorney overseeing your will is a helpful witness if there is a challenge and may reduce the probability of such a challenge.

BIG NEWS for Smaller Firms – State Bar of California “Bringing the Past to Trial” August/September 2008

Sacks Glazier Franklin & Lodise was featured in BIG NEWS for Smaller Firms, the official publication of the Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar of California. Please click here to read the article.

“News Chase” July 16, 2008

Partner Margaret Lodise was recently interviewed by the Korean investigative reporting show “News Chase” for a story about a Korean woman who is under conservatorship in California with properties in Korea. Ms. Lodise provided background information on the U.S. conservatorship system and described its advantages.

ABA Journal “Plotting Against Probate” May 2008

In an interview, Jessica A. Uzcategui explained that probate can lengthen the time to establish the validity of a will and settle the estate, which leads to increased costs and legal fees, especially for larger estates with more complex issues.

  • Ms. Uzcategui is a vice-chair of the American Bar Association Real Property, Trust and Estate Law sections Probate and Fiduciary Litigation Committee.

Newsweek “Controlling Britney” February 11, 2008

In the context of Britney Spears parents taking control of her financial matters, Ms. Lodise discussed the legal wrangling involved and obstacles faced when a person seeks to take over another adults affairs. Ms. Lodise answered a series of questions examining the two types of conservatorships; steps to establish or defend against a conservatorship; and the legal rights a conservator has over a conservatee.