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By: Scott Grossman on June 18th, 2018

Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law

California has extremely strict rules about when an attorney may call himself a “specialist” in a particular area of law. Keep on reading to find out more about becoming a certified specialist in estate planning.

To become a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law, an attorney must pass a state-administered exam.  The pass rate for the exam is generally around 60-70%.  (These are lawyers who have been working for years and who have studied for these tests a long time).

Furthermore, keep in mind that Passing the exam is only the beginning.  (This is all on top of graduating from three years of law school and passing the California Bar Exam.)

Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law must complete 60 hours of classes and further education specific to the specialty.  They also have to demonstrate that they have completed a minimum of 120 cases for different clients demonstrating a high level of skill and knowledge in specific areas such as tax matters, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, conservatorships, and advance health care directives.

All of this practical case experience and educational training must be recent and current.

If this seems like a very high bar for lawyers to be able to call themselves “Certified Specialists,” it is.

Want proof?  California Bar stats show that in 2010 there were 153,000 attorneys actively practicing law in the state of California.  Of those, fewer than 1,000 total were certified.

Key Terms: 

  • Trust (noun): An organization (ie: bank) or someone else can manage the money or property in a trust usually at a set period of time. They are managed by Trustees and are set up to help better serve the beneficiary’s interests. It is a legal document that tells the Trustee how to specifically handle the money and assets on behalf of the beneficiary according to the Trust’s wishes.
  • Estate (noun): An estate includes the things that a person owns. The things left by someone who has died can be distributed based on a Will, Trust, or Intestate laws. Estates have to be administered in the Probate Court if the estate meets certain criteria. See our Infographic on The Probate Process.


If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.