Howard A. Kipnis
NEW: Listen to Howard Kipnis talk about the Barefoot case on the California Lawyers Association podcast:
Mr. Kipnis has over 38 years of experience representing corporate fiduciaries, financial institutions, broker-dealers and brokerage companies, as well as small businesses and individuals, in dispute resolution and litigation arising from banking, brokerage and probate and trust services. He has handled both the prosecution and defense of numerous claims in the federal and state courts throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Imperial, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, as well as in FINRA, NASD, and AAA arbitration hearings, arising out of a financial institution’s retail; brokerage; real estate, commercial and installment lending; fiduciary and trust; international; and escrow services. For over 18 years, Mr. Kipnis has received Martindale- Hubbell’s highest peer-reviewed rating for professional excellence (“A-V Preeminent”). and professional achievement (“Distinguished”). In the last three years he has also been honored as one of San Diego Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” in both Banking and Probate and Trust Litigation, and selected by “San Diego Super Lawyers” in those fields as well.
Mr. Kipnis has represented clients to judgment (or award) in over 50 jury trials, bench trials, or arbitrations, and has successfully represented banks, institutional and familial fiduciaries and individuals in numerous appeals. He nonetheless encourages early evaluation of claims and resolution through use of less costly methods, such as through aggressive use of dispositive motions or alternative dispute resolution methods.
Mr. Kipnis has co-authored an attorney practice guide and, over the years, has been a featured speaker at several seminars and trade conferences, including state-wide CEB programs, on topics such as trust and probate administration and litigation practice, HIPAA, fiduciary and FINRA disputes, and claims resolution and avoidance, most recently: Moderator/co-presenter: “Litigation Tools: Civil Financial Elder Abuse Claims – A Primer” (CLE Webinar; 5/20/22); Co-presenter: “Will King still be king after Haggerty: Is the procedure for trust revocation available for modification?” (CLE Webinar: 7/21/22). He has also testified as an expert witness in several cases involving issues arising from probate/trust litigation/administration, or banking and fiduciary services.
From 1984 to 1991, Mr. Kipnis practiced at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego. Thereafter, until 1994, he served as Assistant General Counsel at San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, where he handled that bank’s litigation and claims portfolio, and was lead counsel for its Trusts & Estates Department. For over 25 years he practiced in a firm that he founded which specialized in banking, probate and trust litigation.
Mr. Kipnis now serves on the Trust and Estates Executive Committee of the California Lawyers Association (formerly the State Bar of California) (TEXCOM), where he currently chairs or vice chairs several of TEXCOM’s Subcommittees, including Litigation and Educating Seniors. Mr. Kipnis was the lead author of an Amicus Brief filed on behalf of TEXCOM in the case of Barefoot v. Jennings (2020) 8 Cal.5th 822, where he successfully advocated on behalf of TEXCOM before the California Supreme Court to reverse a court of appeal opinion that prevented former trust beneficiaries from contesting trust instruments that resulted in their disinheritance in probate court. He has also previously served as a managing editor of the California Trust and Estates Quarterly (the Official Publication of the Trust and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association), and a member of TEXCOM’s Ethics Committee, where he has authored several articles, most recently in 2019 (Vol. 25, Issue 4), entitled, “Barefoot v. Jennings: A Disinherited Trust Beneficiary’s Standing to Bring a Trust Contest in Probate Court Now Teeters Before the California Supreme Court”, and was among several acknowledged contributors to TEXCOM’s Ethics Guide, entitled, “Guide to the California Rules of Professional Conduct for Estate Planners, Trust & Probate Counsel” (4th Ed.).” Barefoot Article
Mr. Kipnis has been an acknowledged lead counsel in several published opinions, most recently in Haggerty v. Thornton (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 1003, where the Fourth District Court of Appeal recognized the right of a person under certain circumstances to amend their trust either by following the procedure for modification set forth in the trust or the procedure for revocation set forth in the Probate Code.
- Commercial and Business Litigation
- Elder Abuse Litigation
- Trust and Probate Litigation
- Financial Institutions
- Complex Civil Litigation
Former Executive Vice President/Regional Managing Director, Wells Fargo’s Wealth Management/Private Client Services (Southwestern Region)
“I have been in the Wealth Management industry for over 30 years with Security Pacific and Wells Fargo – -with 25 years in a senior management capacity with Wells Fargo. My last position before retiring from Wells Fargo was EVP and Regional Managing Director for Los Angeles , Manhattan Beach and Las Vegas regions. My responsibilities included direct oversight of Trust and Estate, Investment Management, Private Banking and Brokerage services.
Over the past 25 years I have worked with numerous law firms and attorneys regarding various trust and estate issues and litigation matters. I met Howard Kipnis in 1992 , when I was the Regional Manager of Wells Fargo’s Wealth Management office in San Diego. Howard immediately lived up to his reputation as a tough, smart , efficient and an ethical litigator by successfully representing Wells Fargo as trustee in a substantial fiduciary matter. Howard continued to be one of few attorneys I would utilize for larger, more complex litigation issues in the San Diego market.
I would not hesitate to recommend Howard and his firm!”
Executive Vice President and Regional Managing Director, Wells Fargo’s Wealth Management Group (Retired)
“When a Trust is written, the hope is that the family will ‘get along’ and allow the parents’ financial legacy to gracefully pass on to their heirs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case! As a Trustee, when you find yourself in a legal battle with your family members, you will need to select an attorney who will know how to navigate the legal system and be able to take on tough issues. Howard Kipnis and his colleagues at his firm are the representation you should consider. Howard was always an ally to me as Trustee and was able to take on some very difficult situations in a very efficient and effective manner. He is experienced, articulate and compassionate. I highly recommend Howard and his associates!”
“Howard Kipnis is a tremendous resource for anyone needing an attorney who specializes in trusts and estates litigation. We were lucky to find and work with Howard on two different litigation matters where he secured exceptional results in two complex probate/trust litigation matters. In the first, an elderly decedent left her estate to a local non-profit organization with which we are involved, only to have an estranged child challenge the bequest. Howard successfully defended the non-profit organization and resolved the contest on favorable terms, thereby avoiding a lengthy and expensive trial. In a second matter, a relative was bequeathed a significant sum of money by her long-time, best friend only to have an estranged heir contest the inheritance. After undertaking well targeted, cost-effective discovery in the case, Howard ensured all of the bequested funds were received by our relative as the decedent had intended. Howard is smart, analytical, thorough, kind, supportive, and extremely patient. He undertakes the work necessary to secure a great result while supporting his clients during what were both very emotional and stressful situations.”
Robin and Kevin Werner
J.D., Harvard Law School, 1985
“Over the last three decades, I have worked with Howard Kipnis on numerous matters stemming from simple disputes over trust dispositive provisions to complex disposition of unique assets of substantial value benefitting various stakeholders with differing perspectives. In all these cases, Howard’s deep and practical knowledge of the law and alternative dispute mechanisms coupled with a solution oriented approach offered expedient and excellent results. Although Howard focuses on end-result and is a tough negotiator on behalf of his clients, his style is collegial, attentive and engaged. He educates as well as advocates with passion and enthusiasm. Howard and his firm are held in high regard by the legal community and the local courts.”
SVP – Wells Fargo Bank: Investment and Fiduciary Services
“For almost 20 years Howard was our “go-to” guy in San Diego for cases filed against Wells Fargo’s retail group. He successfully handled complex cases for the Bank in jury and bench trials, and in arbitration. He is smart and intuitive, as well as tough, but ethical and fair. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him!”
Former Vice President and Senior Counsel, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
“We were dining at a San Diego restaurant and overheard the owner discussing appreciation of his attorney who had successfully won his case. When we asked who his attorney was, he referred us to a San Diego Law Firm. That chance meeting was the best referral possible for our situation, and led us to Steve Barnes.
Previously, we had a Los Angeles attorney representing us in an ongoing family probate matter in an LA court. Our previous attorney with over 30 years of experience could not stop the Trustee (50% beneficiary) from constantly taking us to court. The trustee continued to take advantage of the situation despite the fact the trustee had a few years’ experience as an attorney.
Once Steve Barnes became our attorney, he was able to quickly get up to speed and stopped the trustee from continually taking advantage. Steve was well prepared, responded quickly, competent, professional, retained the facts, and knowledgeable regarding Probate Law. Steve Barnes was strong at proving legal points to the judge.
We have a good attorney-client relationship; and even though the probate matter is still pending, we are in very cable hands and highly recommend Steve as a probate attorney.”
Carla & Doug Sprowls
- Trust and Estates Executive Committee of the California Lawyers’ Association (TEXCOM); Managing Editor of the California Trust and Estates Quarterly (the Official Publication of TEXCOM); Litigation, Ethics and Incapacity Subcommittees of TEXCOM; Association of Business Trail Lawyers; San Diego Defense Lawyers Association; California Bankers Association (Member, Bank Counsel Section); former Master, Louis M. Welch American Inns of Court; First Place, Beaudry Moot Court Competition, 1984. Recipient, American Jurisprudence Award in Commercial Law, 1984. Extern Law Clerk to Honorable J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Justice, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 1983.
- University of California at Los Angeles (B.S., magna cum laude, 1980).
Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., cum laude, 1984). First Place, Beaudry Moot Court Competition, 1984. Recipient, American Jurisprudence Award in Commercial Law, 1984. Extern Law Clerk to Honorable J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Justice, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 1983. Admitted to Bar, 1984 California and U.S District Court, Southern and Central Districts of California; U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Southern and Central Districts of California
- State of California