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Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP

By: Valerie A. Powers Smith, Esq.

Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP, founded in 1994, and with offices in Palm Springs and Costa Mesa, California, and Princeton, New Jersey, concentrates on providing clients with superior legal representation and first-class service at competitive pricing. The firm has continued that success and built a strong reputation in both complex litigation and transactional matters. To enhance the services the firm provides to the community, Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP announces the addition of a full-service Estate, Trusts, Probate & Litigation Department.


Estate planning is an area of law designed to bring security and comfort to you and your loved ones. Planning your estate can also help to preserve hard-earned family wealth. Our estate planning and administration services are dedicated to relieving stress, eliminating uncertainty and protecting your family’s assets. The Attorneys at Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP have extensive experience preparing comprehensive estate plans, giving families a sense of security and preserving their assets for future generations, minimizing estate taxes, preparing for family emergencies, and avoiding the expense and nightmare of probate.

Our estate planning expertise is comprehensive and includes the following services:

  • Revocable Living Trusts
  • Wills
  • Irrevocable Trusts
  • Financial Powers of Attorney
  • Advance Healthcare Directives
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Qualified Domestic Trusts (QDOTs)
  • Family Limited Partnerships
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Gifting Strategies

In addition to the estate planning activities involved in drafting a trust instrument, SBE’s Attorneys also represent trustees and beneficiaries in administration of trusts so that the intentions of the trust are carried out seamlessly and efficiently. SBE’s practice includes petitioning for transfer of assets into the trust after the death of the trustor in the event title was incorrectly cleared, funding sub-trusts, petitioning for instructions regarding the interpretation or modification of trusts, monitoring the creditors’ claim process, petitioning for instructions regarding actions to be taken by the trustee, petitioning for termination of trusts, and petitioning for resignation of trustees and for the appointment of successor trustees.

SBE’s Attorneys also advise trustees regarding their fiduciary duties and powers, the sale or distribution of trust assets, and the preparation of accountings and reports.


When a trustee is accused of not fulfilling his or her fiduciary duties, the matter can become contested. The Attorneys at SBEMP represent trustees and beneficiaries in estate and trust disputes and litigation. SBEMP’s Attorneys have in-depth knowledge of the legal responsibilities of trustees. More specifically, the firm’s estate and trust litigation group has extensive expertise in:

  • Will and trust contests;
  • Estate and trust accountings;
  • Removal of trustees;
  • Defense of trustees;
  • Trustee/Beneficiary disputes;
  • Trustee/Trustee disputes;
  • Family disputes;
  • Modification of trusts;
  • Termination of trusts;
  • Property disputes;
  • Tax disputes;
  • Creditor claims;
  • Contested conservatorships, and
  • Other disputes involving wills and trusts.

If you think you may need legal help or advice for a trust, estate, probate, will contest, wills and trust fraud, or any other trust or estate litigation matter, SBEMP’s Attorneys can help.


The Estate Trust Probate & Litigation Department includes Attorneys Tom Slovak, H. Neal Wells, III, Valerie A. Powers Smith, and David Smith. Their expertise blends estate and trust law, tax law, probate and administration, special needs law, litigation procedures and strategies, and the knowledge of the unique personal emotional experiences encountered by clients in these types of matters.

Tom Slovak, Esq., Partner, began his career emphasizing labor relations for management representing a wide variety of public and private entities in labor contract negotiations, disputes, and administrative hearings including a substantial practice before the Agricultural Labor Relations Board; but, then moved to commercial, real estate transaction, fraud and fiduciary disputes, with substantial emphasis in probate and trust litigation. Tom has tried to verdict numerous commercial and labor arbitration matters, as well as participating in well over 100 sophisticated mediations as counsel and occasionally acting as a private mediator upon request. Tom is a highly respected and effective litigator in the probate and trust area.

H. Neal Wells III, Esq., Of Counsel has offices in both Palm Springs and Costa Mesa (Orange County), California. He is an estates and trusts lawyer whose practice focuses on all aspects of that area of law: estate planning, estate and trust administration, income, gift and death taxation, and litigation respecting estates and trusts. Neal is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel where he currently serves on the Fiduciary Litigation and Employee Benefits Committees. He served as chair of the Executive Committee of the Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section of the State Bar of California and was on the Probate Estate Planning and Trust Law Advisory Commission of the California Board of Legal Specialization. Neal’s is certified as a specialist for estate planning, trust and probate law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. He was an active member of the Probate Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association. Neal has written numerous articles for professional journals. He has been listed as one of the top lawyers in the region and country in local and national publications.

Valerie A. Powers Smith, Esq., Of Counsel, has offices in both Palm Springs, California, and Princeton, New Jersey. Valerie’s experience in the field of estate and trust planning & administration includes the creation of wills, durable powers of attorney, medical/advance directives, special needs trusts, revocable living trusts, and credit shelter trusts. Valerie’s practice includes an additional focus in the area of special needs and disability law. Valerie has routinely advised families, executors, and corporate trustees on the areas of estate and trusts planning and administration; as well as, individuals and families with special needs or unique issues. She is an active member of the Real Property, Trusts & Estate Law Section of the American Bar Association; as well as the state bar associations in California, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Valerie has written numerous articles for professional journals and has spoken extensively. She is highly regarded for her estate planning and administration and trust work with particular regard to those with complex, specialized, and unique considerations.

Dave Smith, Esq., Associate is part of the litigation department and has twenty-three years’ experience in civil litigation and complex corporate, commercial and business litigation issues. Dave is an active member of the Real Property, Trusts & Estate Law Section of the American Bar Association.

For more information about Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP’s new Department and its Attorneys or to schedule a consultation, visit or call (760) 322-2275.

ABOUT Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP

©2012, Valerie A. Powers Smith, Esq.

Valerie A. Powers Smith, Esq., Of Counsel, Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP, is licensed to practice in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and California and specializes in the following special needs and disability law subject areas: health care insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, special needs trust, trust administration, estate planning & administration, guardianships, and accessing federal and state government disability-based benefits. Valerie can be contacted at, 609.655.3393 or 760.322.2275.

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