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Smooth Sailing FOR SENIORS

OC Elder Law’s Marty Burbank and Joshua Ramirez Help Navigate Families to Peace of Mind

“At a young age, I knew I wanted to help people with estate planning. I did not know at the time that you needed to be a lawyer,” says Marty Burbank, JD, LLM and founder of OC Elder Law. Laughing, he continues, “I know it sounds very odd, but I actually used to think through thoughtful ways to distribute wealth to children and charities while I was still in high school. A close family friend was a beneficiary under his grandfather’s trust and I remember my father commenting on how thoughtful his grandfather was. I knew it was something I was interested in, but it wasn’t until later that I realized that I would have to become a lawyer to do it.”

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IN A SEA OF ATTORNEYS...
Burbank did not, however, grow up wealthy, so his journey to nationally recognized elder law attorney didn’t follow a direct line from point A to point B. “Thanks to the Community College system, and the benefits I received while serving in the Navy as a Medical Deep Sea Diver, I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree and get help paying for law school,” he recalls. All told, Burbank would spend 12 years in the Navy, working extensively with Seal Teams, and spending a full three years as the senior corpsman working in the ICU where he says “many of our patients were older veterans and their spouses. I grew to appreciate their stories and the sacrifices they made,” he says.
Upon earning his law degree, Burbank knew that he only wanted to work with elders. Unfortunately, he concedes that his initial job offers didn’t strike a chord with him. “I had several job offers out of law school, but none of them were in the area of elder law and estate planning. I did however receive good advice from a friend who had already become a successful lawyer. He warned me against taking a position in a field I was not interested in, because I’d be putting myself in the proverbial golden handcuffs.”

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So, Burbank did what he’s always done: mapped a different journey. “There were no jobs available for inexperienced elder law attorneys, so I decided to start my own firm. I made a great effort to learn as much as I could. I went to every MCLE class I could find. I immediately applied and enrolled in an LLM Tax program and I joined the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Wealth Counsel, all of which helped give me the legal background I needed,” Burbank says. Likewise, he says many peers provided him with mentorship, including Fay Blix. “Fay Blix told me that when she started as an elder law attorney she went through Nursing Home Ombudsman Training, so I did as well. This, as well as continued training opportunities through Alzheimer’s Orange County, also helped make me a better elder law attorney.”
While Burbank was building his practice, future attorney Joshua Ramirez was plotting his own course into Elder Law. “I have always wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” he says. Like Burbank, Ramirez grew up in a faith-based household, which emphasized giving back to others in hopes of making a positive impact on the world through volunteer and charitable endeavors. “Growing up, I was active in community service, serving at church and being compassionate to those in need,” he recalls. That desire to help others would understandably result in his decision to pursue a legal career. “At a young age I decided that being an attorney was my calling and would be the way I could continue my passion for helping others through difficult times.”
Although Ramirez didn’t have the same experience growing up with grandparents in his home that Burbank did, he felt the same draw towards working with seniors that Burbank felt from early on. “I have always had a passion for seniors, but my education focused on taxes and estate planning,” he says. Fortunately, he found the perfect opportunity to blend his passion with his education when he met Burbank.
“We met at a Bible Study for Lawyers,” says Burbank, before adding with a self-deprecating laugh, “we’re lawyers, we probably need the extra help.” Ramirez agrees, joking, “I didn’t go to Bible Study looking for a job, but after we met I did ask Marty if I could come clerk for him.” That was more than 5 years ago, and suffice it to say, both Burbank and Ramirez feel blessed to have found they are like-minded attorneys in more ways than one, beginning with the fact that both hold LLM degrees.

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CHARTING THE FIRM’S COURSE: FOCUS ON COMPASSION, CARING & EDUCATION
“We are trust and tax attorneys, and our typical clients are families facing the overwhelming costs of long-term care. They are facing moving into an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility, and are concerned with preserving assets for their spouse or parent while maintaining a high quality of life,” explains Ramirez. This naturally extends to veterans, which account for roughly 25% of the firm’s practice, and who, for obvious reasons, hold a place dear to Burbank’s heart.
But far from other trust and estate attorneys who utilize a one-size-fits-all intake form, Burbank and Ramirez flat out refuse to treat each client exactly the same. On the contrary, they are determined to make sure that their clients feel instead, like a one-of-a-kind client. To that end, Ramirez says, “We have a soft approach. Our main priority is learning about what is important to them. This answer is going to be very different for different people.” As such, Burbank and Ramirez are steadfast in their commitment to educate their clients, but only after they have been educated by their clients.
“We set aside at least 2 hours for every initial consultation. We need to get to know our clients before we can provide answers and solutions for what they want,” says Burbank. Only after learning their client’s goals do Burbank and Ramirez begin breaking down the available options. It is during this process that Ramirez is happy to actually draw out various scenarios for clients. “I love the white board. I literally draw out plans for clients so that they can visually see just how their plan will work,” he says.
During these consultations, Ramirez and Burbank are also completely free to spend their time learning about the client’s wishes, as they utilize one of their firm’s paralegals to track notes. This is done, according to Burbank, in order to allow him and Ramirez to focus their entire efforts on learning about the client, before ultimately educating them.
“OC Elder Law is often able to find legal solutions where other firms have not been able to help clients reach their goals. Sometimes we are the second or third law firm a client has spoken to. Because we spend so much effort and expense on continuing education for all of our lawyers, we are aware of many of the latest legal strategies to help clients reach their goals. Because of our continued effort to stay well informed on non-legal issues as well, we are able to bring a lot more to the table than just ‘legal’ solutions,” explains Burbank. “There are new options available that weren’t available five years ago. We are dedicated to making sure that we provide our clients with all of the newest strategies and options that are emerging and available.”
Given the fact that both Ramirez and Burbank are incredibly devoted to their faith—Burbank counts seminary training in his past, while Ramirez has served as a youth pastor— they are well known for helping clients who are similarly minded to allocate assets in conjunction with their faith. “We feel that if your faith has been important to you throughout your life, ignoring that part of your life when planning for incapacity, death and wealth distribution doesn’t make any sense. We take a faith-based perspective to our clients’ planning, when appropriate, which keeps their faith at the center of their plan and passes on a truly great legacy to their family,” says Ramirez.
As a result of their faith, giving back to others is nearly as much a part of what OC Elder Law does, as the trust and estate planning they provide for elders and their families. For example, Burbank and his wife Seon Chun-Burbank recently pledged to send an entire Anaheim classroom of 27 kindergarteners to college. This pledge has understandably garnered national media attention, as it will ultimately cost in excess of $1.1 million dollars. “At least 20% of our firm’s time is spent giving back,” says Burbank before admitting sheepishly that “one of our paralegals actually spends closer to one-third of her time managing the plan for the kids.”
Although that is an extreme example of charitable giving, Ramirez and Burbank are relentless in less visible efforts to better their communities as well. “Our firm serves at various local charities, such as packing food boxes for the Roosters annual food drive, and packing supplies for needy children in Ecuador through the Giving Children Hope Foundation.
Burbank also serves as Vice Chair of the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce Board, and has served on the YWCA Board, the Rotary Fullerton Board, and the Roosters Foundation Board. Ramirez serves as a Member at Large on the Board of Directors for the Elder Law Section of the OCBA, and serves on the Board of Directors for Crittenton Services. Moreover, both Ramirez and Burbank are part of Rotary International.

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QUALITY OF LIFE SAVERS FOR FELLOW ATTORNEYS
With all that Burbank and Ramirez do to help their clients and their community, the two are also always looking for ways to help their colleagues, fellow attorneys, and the Orange County legal community as a whole. The single most measurable way that they have been able to do so thus far has been through helping other attorneys retire. “We have acquired 5 law practices over the last 4 years,” says Ramirez. “This has not only helped our business to grow, but has helped other attorneys retire comfortably.” Burbank agrees saying, “We have been able to give these attorneys much more value for their firm than they thought was possible, helping them to retire earlier and better than they thought possible.”
The partners, in fact, are planning to acquire other firms in the coming years. “We are currently looking for mature lawyers who are looking to retire so we can help them with their retirement goals as well as helping our own firm to grow,” Burbank continues. Further commitment to helping their fellow attorneys can also be seen through referral fees which have been known to climb to six figures in the past.
Considering all Burbank and Ramirez have already accomplished, and have done to help others, what’s peeking over the horizon for the future? “We plan to continue to work hard, and continue to learn all we can about seniors and aging,” says Ramirez. Plus, Burbank says the firm plans to remain devoted to giving back to others, all the while making sure their office and staff is enjoying life. “We have a lot of fun in our office. We are lucky that there are great people that work here, and we’re pretty sure they like working here. They did buy me a few amazing birthday gifts,” he says again with a laugh.

Contact
Marty Burbank
Joshua Ramirez
OC Elder Law
www.OCElderlaw.com
info@OCElderlaw.com
800.220.4205
619 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832
1185 Magnolia Ave., Suite B
Corona, CA 92879

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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