Biography

James A. Bush joined Keystone Law Group, P.C., as a partner in 2021. After graduating law school in 1981 and serving a one-year clerkship with a Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Jim became a litigator in private practice, first in Arizona and, since 1998, in California, based in North San Diego County but with matters throughout the state. Originally starting as a commercial litigator, Jim has evolved his practice over the last 15 years to focus on the litigation of trusts, estates, and probate matters from consulting about the initial dispute through trial and appeal, when necessary.

Matters on which he has worked include powers of appointment issues; challenges to trusts and wills based upon claims of undue influence, fraud, lack of capacity, mistake, and due execution; claims of breach of fiduciary duty and/or requests to change a trustee or personal representative; demands for accountings, requests to approve accountings, and objections to accountings; other matters of trust or estate administration; conservatorship issues; requests to modify estate planning documents; distributions where there is no will or trust; and other issues.


Jim’s breadth of experience from decades of litigating and settling matters in state and federal trial and appellate courts in California and Arizona allows him to have informed discussions about what is realistically obtainable in the then-known circumstances in a probate or trust dispute. He endeavors to move a dispute through the litigation process in an efficient, economical way, reevaluating the client’s goals and the plausible outcomes as the case progresses.

Speaking Engagements

  • “Trust and Probate Challenges” webinar for Strafford Publications, Inc. in January 2018
  • “Trust and Probate Challenges” webinar for Strafford Publications, Inc. in January 2013
James A. Bush
Partner
Education

Jim received his undergraduate degree, with distinction and a double major in astronomy and physics, and his law degree, with high distinction, from the University of Arizona. While in law school, Jim served as a writer, executive editor, and editor-in chief of the Arizona Law Review and as a student member of the College of Law Executive Committee, and he was awarded the Order of the Coif and the Law College Association Award for Scholarship and Service.

Memberships

  • Los Angeles County Bar Association, Trusts & Estates and Litigation Sections
  • California Lawyers Association, Trusts & Estates and Litigation Sections
  • San Diego County Bar Association, including chair of the civil appellate rules committee of the Appellate Practice Section and member of the Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section
  • Probate Attorneys of San Diego, including as a member of the editorial panel of the PASD’s 2022-2023 Probate Handbook
  • North (San Diego) County Bar Association, Trusts and Estates Section
Representative Matters
  • Sole counsel for appellant in Roth v. Jelley (2020) 45 Cal.App.5th 655, which successfully overturned a nearly 30 year-old judgment that had improperly extinguished client’s contingent beneficial interest in the multi-million dollar remainder of a trust without the notice to that client that constitutional due process required.
  • Lead counsel for appellant in Sefton v. Sefton (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 159 and Sefton v. Sefton (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 875, which together established that: (1) A power of appointment exercised in 2006 but that became irrevocable in 1966 had to be exercised in accordance with the law governing appointments in 1966, not the law as it had been revised by 2006; and (2) that upon a defective exercise of the power of appointment, appellant was entitled to an equal share of the estate in question (which equal share was worth tens of millions of dollars), not merely the minimum share (for hundreds of thousands of dollars) that he could have been appointed had the power of appointment been exercised properly.
  • Sole counsel for brothers in unpublished decision on appeal that not only dismissed all claims by their sisters to take the bulk of their mother’s trust and estate but also sanctioned sisters for pursuing a frivolous appeal.
  • Lead counsel on appeal that, through an unpublished decision, successfully defended probate court’s application of the presumption of community property to an asset in a trust estate based on written evidence and without live testimony where the appellants failed to show there was any evidence that would successfully rebut the presumption and where the appellants failed to show that they had properly objected to the procedure used by the probate court to resolve the issue.
  • Successfully settled before litigation was filed a client’s claim to his parents’ estate that had purportedly been eliminated by a 2015 amendment to their estate plan where one trustor’s supposed execution of the amendments with merely an “X” for his signature failed to meet the requirements of California law.
  • Successfully settled during litigation challenges brought by one sibling claiming undue influence as to a client’s majority share of the estate of their parents where the client had sacrificed her own career to be both parents’ primary caretaker and where all the other siblings declared that parents knowingly and voluntarily gave the majority share to client.
  • Successfully settled during litigation undue influence claim by charitable organization against widow’s deceased husband where trustor, who once indicated a revocable intent to give a substantial distribution to that charity but who later gave the bulk of his estate to that deceased husband who had been the trustor’s primary friend for the last 20 years of his life.
  • Successfully litigated for and defended against will contests and trust contests involving claims of mental incapacity, undue influence, fraud, duress and forgery
  • Prevailed at trial for conservator daughter of elderly mother against attempt by trustee and other daughters to force sale of mother’s home to benefit the trust and its residual beneficiaries without regard for mother’s best interests, and thereafter settled the other daughters’ claims to the trust.

Interests

In addition to following the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates teams from his native Pittsburgh, PA, Jim loves to cook, read, be active, and take in live music, art, theater, and movies and enjoys the activities of his adult children