WEINSTOCK MANION – A LAW CORPORATION, Managing director
Sussan Shore, the managing director at the Century City-based Weinstock Manion – A Law Corporation, has spent decades helping families with their estate and trust planning.
Shore, who joined the firm in 1980, has spent her tenure designing and implementing multi-generational estate plans for her high net-worth clients and their families, developing solutions for traditional and blended families alike. Her clients include fiduciaries, beneficiaries and conservatorships.
In addition to her work, Shore is an estate-planning instructor at UCLA Extension.
How did you discover your interest in law? And how did you arrive at your specialty?
My interest in law began in high school. I enjoyed participating in debates and writing and presenting topics for my classmates. A few teachers encouraged me by telling me I would make a “good lawyer.” My studies at UCLA undergrad continued to direct my interests towards law and public policy. I knew I wanted to go to law school, so I was able to complete my BA from UCLA in two years and four months. My interest and enthusiasm for the trusts and estates field of law grew from both my law school elective classes and my work experience during that period. My part-time work from high school through law school was always working in the tax and accounting field. I enjoyed tax law and became proficient at it. When I clerked for a large local firm, the law clerks rotated through the various departments of the firm. The department I enjoyed the most was the probate/estate department. It was a natural selection, and I never regretted it.
Tell us about the most noteworthy or interesting case (or cases) that you’ve been involved with.
Over my long career I have had many interesting tax matters for clients, especially those involving federal estate and gift tax audits with the IRS. These can be very challenging in terms of arguing the nuances of the estate and gift tax law with the examiner or in negotiating a fair settlement on behalf of my client. I have also enjoyed great success on behalf of my clients in matters before the Probate Court. Examples would include protecting the elderly from abusive family, caregivers or scoundrels; ensuring beneficiaries receive their inheritances and holding trustees responsible for their breaches; and resolving disputes among family members and charitable beneficiaries.
Are any new regulations or pieces of legislation in Los Angeles or California creating new or more work for you and your practice?
Not exactly at this time. In 2021, there was increased estate planning being done in reaction to the pending effective date of Proposition 19, which involved property tax reassessments between parents and children. We anticipate there will be increased estate planning for the very wealthy, as our current high federal estate/gift tax exemption amounts (currently $12.9 million) are due to sunset as of Dec. 31, 2025, which will take the exemption amount to approximately one-half of that figure.
How did the pandemic affect your career, and what do you think is on the horizon for the legal industry?
Our firm and my personal career weathered the years of the pandemic very well. We were able to work remotely and provide uninterrupted legal services for our clients. We had a great team at the firm, which helped all of the professional members to accomplish what was required to smoothly continue the quality of assistance our clients expected and were accustomed to. On the other hand, working remotely did affect the camaraderie we all enjoyed by working together.
Now that we are back in the office, even with a hybrid schedule for many, we are working hard to bring back the exceptional culture we had at our firm. I believe this will be a challenge for the legal industry, as well as other professional industries that are enhanced and nurtured by the in-person collaboration we were accustomed to. We just have to work harder to achieve and maintain the “teamwork atmosphere” that was so much a part of the enjoyment in the practice of law.
What is the biggest challenge that comes with your job?
I have enjoyed the luxury of a very busy practice for decades. It is always a challenge to meet your client’s expectations and provide our services in a timely manner. In order to provide exceptional legal counseling for my clients, I must always dedicate a fair amount of time to self-study, reading new pertinent caselaw and tax-law changes, and staying in dialogue with my colleagues and other specialists in my field of law. Since I am also the managing director of my law firm, balancing the administrative needs of our firm, along with my personal client workload, can also be challenging at times. I work with our director of administration, HR manager and accounting manager on a daily basis to ensure the smooth operation of our firm.
What is it like to be a part of such personal decisions for your clients, and how do you help them navigate those sensitive waters with members of their family?
I have always held that part of my practice in the highest regard. I take very seriously the confidences my clients share with me, and I try to create a safe environment for them to trust me with their most private of concerns. I believe that I am an excellent listener, and I am intent on focusing 100% of my attention when my clients are speaking to me. I try to put myself in to their situation and to understand the nuances that are part of their family relationships.
One must be empathetic, but also be able to express a “fair resolution” for the client’s concerns. My practice area is one in which we often provide as much psychological counseling as we do legal counseling. It is one of the most rewarding parts of my career.