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Firm Overview

I established my own practice in January 1996. Initially I worked in a number of areas, including wills and trusts, workers' compensation and immigration law. I specialized more in workers' compensation for a number of years and even became a certified specialist through the State Bar of California. Because of my interest in international law, I decided around 2004 to specialize more in wills and trusts, which I have emphasized to this day.

I work on all aspects of estate planning, including wills and trusts, durable powers of attorney and advanced health care directives. I also help trustees administer a trust when a loved one has passed away. If a family member did not have a trust, I can help the family through the court-supervised administration of an estate known as probate. I have a special interest in international or "cross border" estate planning and administration. This involves people with family and assets abroad and people living abroad who have assets or family in California.
I became an attorney in 1985. I worked for three years in large corporate firms in San Francisco and Palo Alto. In 1988, I decided to take a leave of absence from large law firms and went to Paris, France where I lived for over four years. I met my wife in Paris, and our first child was born there. In 1992, we returned to California, and I worked for a large law firm in Novato, California for three years. In January 1996, I was ready to set up my own practice.

Example cases

My job involves both careful legal analysis and people skills. I had a case several years ago in which an estate plan drafted by another attorney overlooked an important requirement for an exclusion from reassessment under Proposition 13. After carefully completing my legal analysis, I had to explain to the family that the plan as written could lead to the family residence's being reassessed. This would mean a significant increase in property taxes. As the surviving spouse, the husband, had just passed away, the plan could not be revised. I was able to work with the family to implement the plan in such a way that the family residence could avoid reassessment.

Regarding international cases, I find that you have to put yourself in the position of the other country. I had a client a few years ago who wanted to name his eldest son as the trustee of his trust. However, his son, who had dual nationality with the U.S. and Great Britain, was living in London. I did my research and also consulted with a British solicitor. In addition to potential problems under U.S. law regarding the taxation of "foreign" trusts, this client's trust might have been taxable under British law if he named his son as trustee. This could have happened even though all his assets were located in California!

Main Office

Main
131-A Stony Circle
Suite 536
Santa Rosa  CA  95401

Phone
  • (707) 578-2310
Fax
  • (707) 540-6256

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

I charge $200 for an initial consultation. I deduct this fee from the cost for the estate plan if the client hires me.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

I generally charge a flat rate for preparing estate plans. Depending on the complexity of the estate, I charge between $750 and $2,000. Matters requiring advanced tax planning or "cross border" issues can cost more than $2,000.

Hourly Rates

$300

Office Information

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Office Manager

Linda Hancock-Garcia

Emergency After Hours

No

Languages Spoken

French, German, and basic Spanish

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

I chose wills, trusts and estate planning because I can work in a small firm and still work with clients who have questions about "cross border" planning. Ever since I was seven years old and living in Germany, I have been fascinated by history and by foreign languages. I followed this fascination in college, where I majored in European history, and in law school, where I took as many courses as I could about the legal systems of other countries and how they compare to the U.S. system.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

I find it much easier to work with clients who have spent some time learning the legal issues affecting their cases. I encourage this.

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

I am happy to review documents prepared by clients. In fairness, I always warn clients that it is sometimes less expensive to have me prepare the documents than to have me review what they have done and try to correct any errors.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

In general, I think this is fine. I try to determine in the initial interview whether the client really can handle the matter on his or her own.

Michael D. Larsen

I became an attorney in 1985. I worked for three years in large corporate firms in San Francisco and Palo Alto. In 1988, I decided to take a leave of absence from large law firms and went to Paris, France where I lived for over four years. I met my wife in Paris, and our first child was born there. In 1992, we returned to California, and I worked for a large law firm in Novato, California for three years. In January 1996, I was ready to set up my own practice.

These are tough questions! I think all of the experiences in my life have helped me become a better lawyer. Certainly my education and work experience have sharpened my legal skills, which include logical thinking and careful analysis. But practicing law has taught me that the legal analysis is often only half of the problem clients have. The other half is dealing with people. This is especially true in the area of wills and trusts, where family members have to deal with death, grief, money and family dynamics.

I have excellent legal skills and a wealth of experience gleaned from practicing law for over 20 years. I have grown considerably as a person over the past two decades and relate well to people. In terms of style, I like to educate my clients and their families and try to develop a spirit of collaboration. I have found that conflict in the area of wills, trusts and estates can tear families apart, and I want my clients to avoid that fate.

Personal interests:

I love reading history and foreign languages. I lived in France for four years as a young man, and my wife is from France, so I spend a lot of time with French people and Francophiles. I also enjoy hiking and riding my bicycle in the parks near my home.

License
  • Bar Number: 120815
    California , 1985
Education
  • University of Chicago
    Juris Doctor , 1985
    Chicago, IL
  • Harvard College
    Bachelor's Degree , 1982
    Cambridge, MA
  • University of Chicago
    Juris Doctor , 1985
    Chicago, IL
  • Harvard College
    Bachelor's Degree , 1982
    Cambridge, MA
  • University of Chicago
    Juris Doctor , 1985
    Chicago, IL
  • Harvard College
    Bachelor's Degree , 1982
    Cambridge, MA

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