What is an Estate Plan Independent Review?

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of securing the future, ensuring assets are distributed according to one’s wishes, and protecting loved ones. In this insightful interview with Nathan B. Hoffman, a seasoned probate and Trust litigator, we delve deep into the realm of estate planning and focus on the importance of independent reviews. Discover how these reviews provide an additional layer of protection and why they have become increasingly common, even beyond statutory requirements.

Section 1: What is an Independent Review?

  • Definition: An independent review is a private consultation with a lawyer, mandated by California’s probate code for certain donative transfers.
  • Scope: It encompasses various donative transfers, not limited to wills or trusts, involving prohibitive groups such as caregivers, lawyers, accountants, or fiduciaries.
  • Purpose: The primary goal is to ensure the individual making the gift is doing so willingly, free from undue influence or coercion.

Section 2: The Process of Independent Reviews

  • Initiation: Estate planners recommend independent reviews based on potential challenges or concerns, often contacting lawyers like Nathan B. Hoffman.
  • Preparation: Detailed preparation involves sharing relevant documents, conflict checks, and an engagement letter to initiate the review process.
  • Meeting Format: Reviews are conducted either in person or via Zoom, lasting an hour or more based on complexity. The client gains clarity on the purpose and importance of the review.

Section 3: Red Flags and When to Recommend Independent Reviews

  • Unequal Distributions: Cases involving unequal asset distribution among heirs, especially in complex family structures, often raise concerns and require independent reviews.
  • Successor Families: Challenges arise in families with remarriages, step-siblings, or disinherited beneficiaries, necessitating reviews to preempt potential disputes.

Section 4: Effectiveness and Challenges of Independent Reviews

  • Effectiveness: Properly conducted independent reviews are considered a gold standard, providing strong supporting evidence in court.
  • Challenges: Ineffectual reviews stem from inexperienced reviewers or insufficient time spent, undermining their credibility and impact.

Section 5: Addressing Elder Abuse and Undue Influence

  • Legal Safeguards: California’s comprehensive elder abuse statutes offer robust protection, allowing legal action against financial exploitation or abuse of elders.
  • Role of Lawyers: Lawyers like Nathan B. Hoffman play a crucial role in advocating for abused elders, ensuring perpetrators are held accountable.


Estate planning is a complex terrain, demanding meticulous attention to legal nuances and potential challenges. Nathan B. Hoffman’s expertise sheds light on the significance of independent reviews, emphasizing their role as a protective shield in estate planning. As families navigate the intricacies of asset distribution, these insights serve as a guiding beacon, ensuring a secure legacy for generations to come.

🗣️Notable Quotes:

“An estate planner should know that if they don’t recommend an independent review when it’s required. There’s a potential that they could be sued for malpractice.”

📇Connecting with Nathan:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathan-b-hoffman-trust-and-estate-litigation-62b729/?trk=org-employees&originalSubdomain=sv

Instagram: @nathanbhoffman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nathanbhoffman

Website: https://www.thehoffmanlawfirm.com/

📺Full Episode

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DISCLAIMER: The Probate Realtor® Matias Baker Masucci is a licensed real estate broker in California DRE # 02054763. Any legal information provided is for informational purposes only and NOT for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal issue or problem. We make no guarantees as to the accuracy of any information.

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