DriskellGordon.com Overhaul

On December 6, 2013, Driskell & Gordon began overhauling their website to make information more accessible, resources easier to find, and pages generally more pleasing to the eye.

We hope you enjoy our new site and look forward to hearing from you soon!



By John L. Gordon

Getting older, while a fact of life, is no walk in the park.  More people than ever are wisely making an effort to maximize their golden years by taking good care of themselves, but sadly, sometimes stuff happens.  Among the most dreaded infirmities of old age is dementia, and if it affects a loved one, the entire family may feel helpless and frustrated.  It’s difficult to watch while someone demonstrates memory loss, confusion, speech and language difficulties, changes in behavior, or other alarming symptoms. While there’s no known cure for dementia, the good news is that there are some practical steps you can take to make life smoother for everyone involved.

The General Conservatorship

If your loved one didn’t sign powers of attorney for finances and health care while s/he still had the mental capacity to do so, a general conservatorship may now be the best choice.  There are two different types of general conservatorship that are used in the case of a person with diminished mental capacity.

1.         A conservator of the person is appointed to manage the individual’s personal needs such as food, clothing shelter, health care, and safety.

2.         A conservator of the estate is appointed to manage the individual’s financial matters to the extent that personal or real property will be wasted unless adequate management is provided.

Depending on the situation, your loved one may benefit from one or both of the above conservatorships.

When You Visit an Attorney

In preparing the Petition for Conservatorship, your attorney will probably discuss the following questions with you:

  • Is there an urgent need requiring the immediate appointment of a temporary conservator?  (Emergency surgery, a threat of some ill-intentioned person’s diverting your loved one’s assets, etc.)
  • Is your loved one agreeable to conservatorship?
  • Who is the best person to serve as conservator?  Is a professional conservator needed?
  • Are there other family members who object to conservatorship?
  • What assets does your loved one hold?  (Home, other real property, bank accounts, investments, business.)
  • What are his/her sources of income?
  • Can s/he live safely in his/her home?
  • What are his/her medical needs, including medications?

You should bring to your appointment any documents that show the need for conservatorship.  These may include photos of living conditions, copies of unpaid bills, copies of any previous estate-planning documents, names of prescribed medications, names and contact information of health & support care providers, family members, or friends who have information about your loved one’s inability to care for himself/herself and his/her estate.

The Next Step

Once your attorney has drafted and you’ve signed the appropriate conservatorship papers, they will be filed with the Court and a hearing date will be set approximately 6-8 weeks out.  A Court Investigator is assigned to gather information and file a written report with the court before the hearing date.  In most cases, the Court will also appoint a PVP (Probate Volunteer Panel) attorney to advocate for the proposed conservatee.  Barring objection, and if the Court  feels that the need exists, a conservator will be appointed at the scheduled hearing.  Thereafter, the conservator will be accountable to the Court for properly managing the conservatee’s affairs.  (For more about the conservator’s duties, see the “Handbook for Conservators,” published by The Judicial Council of California,http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/conservatorship_handbook.pdf)

Although there are no simple solutions to dealing with dementia and its fallout, a general conservatorship can make things a little easier and a lot more secure at a time when you, your loved one, and the whole family needs all the help that’s available.

John L. Gordon is a partner at Driskell & Gordon.  His emphasis is on guardianships and conservatorships.  He has conducted seminars on special needs trusts for the developmentally disabled.  He serves as a Probate Volunteer Panel (PVP) Attorney for Los Angeles County.  He can be reached at Driskell & Gordon, 180 No. Glendora Ave., Suite 201, Glendora, CA  91741, (626) 914-7809, jlg@driskellgordon.com.



By Danielle D. Mittskus

So you think a dog is man’s best friend?? According to the American Humane Association, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. That is a lot of biting! What does this mean for you? Whether you’re a dog owner or not, being aware of the implications of a dog bite is important.

A common misconception among dog owners is that every dog gets “one free bite,” meaning the owners cannot be held liable the first time their dog bites someone else, because, goodness gracious, they “had no idea that little Sparky could be so ferocious.” How were they supposed to know Sparky hates mailmen?!

Not true. Under California law, a dog owner is liable for damages suffered by anyone who is bitten by the dog, regardless of whether Sparky previously demonstrated his true anti-social tendencies. Even a less-than-gentle nibble is enough; no puncture or tearing of the skin is required to make it a “bite.”

Now of course there are limitations; if Butch, your brave boxer, chews up someone who’s just broken into your home, more power to him. However, if the victim is in a public place or lawfully in a private place – which includes postmen, FedEx or UPS delivery drivers, and guests invited into your home or on your property—tell Butch to keep his teeth to himself!

Once your pooch has taken a chunk out of your poor, unsuspecting guest, you have a duty to take whatever steps necessary to protect others from the same fate. Put a leash on Fido, put him in a crate when you’re not around to watch him, fence in your yard – whatever it takes. Because if a dog bites on two or more separate occasions, the district attorney or city attorney has the right to bring an action against the owner. The court may then do whatever it deems appropriate to prevent another bite, including removing the animal from the area, or… well… let’s just say Fido can be forced to take a long, permanent nap.

And let’s make no mistake about it – this rule applies to small and big dogs alike. A feisty Chihuahua can potentially cause a lot of damage, or so I’ve heard.

As for your liability, even if your mutt is now muzzled, you could well be responsible for paying the victim’s medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, and even compensation for any scarring that the bite may cause. Fortunately for both owners and victims, many homeowners and rental insurance policies provide coverage for these damages. (But check your policy. “Aggressive” breeds like pit bulls or Rottweilers may be excluded.)

Now, what about those of you who have had the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of Fido’s lousy temper? Well, after detaching his teeth from your tender flesh:

● Go to the doctor, quickly! You may need a rabies shot if the dog wasn’t vaccinated. Follow all instructions that you are given regarding treatment of the injury. It’s also a good idea to keep track of all medical paperwork, including bills and doctors’ instructions.

● Obtain the name and address of the dog owner, as well as those of any witnesses. Take photographs of your wound, torn clothing (which you may also want to preserve), or any other evidence that shows the extent of your injuries.

● Report the incident to your local animal control authorities. This ensures that the attack is documented. They may also be able to inform you of any other attacks by the same dog. If Fido has a rap sheet as long as his tail, it strengthens your claim for damages.

● Last, but definitely not least, consult with an attorney about filing a claim against the owner. Dog bites are handled on a contingency basis – if the pooch prevails, you don’t pay. Chances are the attorney can settle the matter before a suit is even filed. And even if your case does go to trial, don’t worry. You can be pretty sure you’ll make a better witness than that Ferocious Fido.

Driskell & Gordon in Glendora is a civil firm handling personal injury, products liability, business law, real estate law, contract, probate, conservatorships, trusts, and wills. Reach us at (626) 914-7809, or info@driskellgordon.com.

INJURED? What to do and when to do it.

INJURED? What to do and when to do it.


Robert L. Driskell, Esq.

You haven’t planned to have an accident; in fact, you’ve probably done all you can to guard against it.  Your brakes and tires are good and your car is running well.  And, responsible driver that you are, in the unlikely event you do have an accident, you’re prepared.  You have your proof of insurance; your driver’s license; airbags in your car; and you’ve just buckled your seatbelt.  You’re off!  What could possibly go wrong?

CRASH!!!!!!!!! Ouch.

It can happen to the best of us, and now, unfortunately, it’s happened to you.   Suddenly all of your preparations may seem inadequate as you’re faced with the question, “What do I do NOW?”

Of course, if there are serious injuries, a call to 911 is the first order of business.  The second, even if the accident is a minor one, is to exchange contact and insurance information with the other party.  Now, you may become a bit flummoxed.  Do you move the vehicles?  Take photos?  Call the police?  Call your insurance company?  Go the doctor ASAP to get checked out?  Call an attorney?  Go home and go to bed?There are a lot of questions.  Here are some answers that should help.


Yes.  Even a minor fender-bender may result in one or more party’s claiming injuries, and the police report is very valuable in assessing fault and damages.


Only if it’s in a dangerous spot.  Otherwise, leave it where it is until the police arrive.


Although the police will probably take photos, it can’t hurt for you to do it as well.  Just be careful – you don’t want to get hit while standing in the street and snapping pictures!


If you’re in pain or have obvious injuries at the accident scene, go to the doctor or E.R. immediately.   However, if you have soft tissue injuries, you may not have pain or discomfort until a day or two after the accident.  You should then see your doctor ASAP.  If you need some alternate form of treatment such as chiropractic, see a physician first for a referral.


As little as possible! Do not admit blame.  Even if you suspect you were at fault, once the facts are known, the other party may be partially liable.  Do not assure anyone that you’re uninjured.  If you feel all right  immediately after an accident but can barely climb out of bed the next morning, you don’t want to go on record as having cheerily proclaimed at the scene, “I’m fine; I think I’ll go dancing!”


Tempting as it may be to handle it yourself, reporting the accident to your insurer is probably a good idea.  Although your premiums could be raised if the accident is determined to be your fault, your policy robably requires you to promptly report all accidents, and your insurer theoretically could deny you coverage if you fail to do this. That’s a mess nobody needs.


Almost all personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation, and will accept your case on a contingency basis:  if you don’t win the case, you don’t pay!  So, yes, call an attorney – you have nothing to lose.  And don’t delay—there’s a time limit (statute of limitations) on how long after an accident you can sue.

Good luck, and drive carefully.

Robert L. Driskell is a founding partner of Driskell & Gordon in Glendora, a civil firm handling personal injury, products liability, business law, real estate law, contracts, probate, conservatorships, trusts, and wills.  He has over 34 years experience as a litigator and trial attorney in Southern California.  He can be reached at (626) 914-7809, or rdriskell@driskellgordon.com.





Jason A. Fetchik, Esq.

Unless you’re in the throes of a severe case of mal de mer (or seasickness, as we say in the States), chances are you don’t spend much time thinking about dying. Back on dry land, however, making reasonable preparations regarding your property can save your heirs a good deal of money and grief and make your golden years a lot easier.

Maybe you’re thinking that your financial situation is so straightforward that it should be foolproof? Perhaps you’re a widower with only one child, and you take it for granted that as soon as you’ve gone to your reward, he’ll inherit everything. At last, you think happily, he’ll cut his hair, take a shower, and become a responsible (and presentable) member of society! Maybe you’ve even left a will to guarantee the results you want. What could go wrong? Ha! We’re talking about the legal system here.

As if dying isn’t enough of a bummer, after you die, California law generally requires that your property be probated before it can be distributed to your heirs, whether or not you have a will! Probate requires that a court-appointed representative of your estate must petition the court for an order that your property be distributed in a certain fashion. This can be slow (frequently a year or longer), intrusive (certain documents pertaining to your life and finances will be available to the public), and expensive! Consider this alarming scenario:

You die owning a house worth $500,000 and have $200,000 in a savings account. The house has a $400,000 mortgage, and thus only $100,000 of equity. However, California law sets fees for the attorney probating the estate and the executor of the estate based on the estate’s gross value, or, in this case, $700,000. The upshot? The attorney receives $17,000; the executor receives $17,000; even though the beneficiaries receive only about $300,000. And as if this isn’t disgusting enough, there would be costs such as filing and publication fees that could exceed $2,000. So the cost of probating this estate could be as much as $35,000: money that you wanted your beneficiaries to receive.

So what’s a person to do? Is there a legal way to chop through all this red tape?

Thankfully, there is indeed, and it’s called a revocable, or living, trust. With a living trust in place, one person (the trustee) holds property for the benefit of another (the trustor). The beauty of a living trust is that the trustor and trustee are usually the same person: You as trustor will transfer your property to yourself as trustee, to be held in trust for your benefit. Your financial life doesn’t change and you can amend or modify the trust and transfer and sell your property to your heart’s content! (Your son still refuses to get a haircut and you’ve decided to leave everything to the dog instead? No problem….).

Returning to reality, upon your death, your assets will avoid probate because you’ve transferred them all to the living trust, which now owns all the property, leaving nothing to probate! Also, the trust will now become irrevocable (unchangeable), and must be distributed according to your wishes. A successor trustee, whom you’ve named in the trust, will take over managing and distributing the trust. If the successor trustee retains an attorney to administer the trust and distribute the assets, typically the fees and costs associated with the administration of a trust pale in comparison to those of probating the same estate. And, in the event you decide that instead of worrying about administering your estate during your life, you’d rather spend your later years snowboarding in Vale, or taking Zumba classes, or whatever makes your day, the successor trustee can take over for you in managing your trust assets according to your wishes.

Well, you may be saying, that all sounds Perfectly Peachy, but why shouldn’t I Do It Myself and maybe save even more money? Or use one of those nifty little lawyer-free legal services that are forever sticking “WE DO TRUSTS CHEAP!” pamphlets under my door? The simple answer is that a trust isn’t simple, and it won’t serve its purpose if it’s not done correctly. Depending on your situation, finances, holdings, and particularly your own desires, you need a reputable attorney with estate-planning experience to determine what kind of living trust you need, and even in some cases, whether a trust is the best answer for you. (There are cases where a simple Will is a better choice, although these are becoming less and less frequent). For a flat fee, most estate planning attorneys will assess your needs and wants, prepare your Trust; Pourover Will; Powers of Attorney; Advance Health Care Directives; and the deeds that are needed to transfer real estate into your trust. They will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and make sure that your estate runs smoothly.

And once that’s done, you can rest easy and enjoy your Zumba class.

Jason A. Fetchik is an attorney at Driskell & Gordon, a probate and litigation firm in Glendora. He can be reached at 626-914-7809 or at driskellgordon.com


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