Regarded as one of San Diego’s preeminent probate specialists, B. James Brierton, Esq. began his legal career in 1972 as Director of a clinic for low-income elderly and has since handled thousands of matters involving probate, trusts, estates, and elder law. In 1997, after completing over 100 hours of extensive mediation training, Mr. Brierton began serving as a mediator and arbitrator in addition to his litigation work. To date, he has mediated and arbitrated more than 500 cases involving disputed litigated and non-litigated matters in his field of law.

Mr. Brierton brings a record of extensive experience and expertise to ADR Services, Inc.:

  • 45 years of experience litigating complex trust, probate and elder law matters
  • 20 years as a distinguished mediator, settling over 500 cases
  • Selected as a San Diego Super Lawyer continuously since 2009
  • Certified Specialist in Trust, Probate and Estate Planning since 1991
  • AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Executive Committee, Trusts and Estates Section of the California State Bar
  • Judge Pro Tem, San Diego Probate Court

The tenacity, impartiality and creativity which Mr. Brierton brings to mediation inspires confidence in the parties to resolve their disputes. His ability to evaluate technical and complex legal issues involved in trust and probate disputes overcomes the stumbling blocks to settlement and fosters confidence in the mediation process.


  • Conservatorship dispute wherein a son lived with his mother for two years in a part-time caregiver role and took over the managing of finances for his mother. His sister was concerned their mother was not receiving proper care and claimed that their mother was a victim of financial abuse by her brother.

  • Dispute regarding financial losses suffered in Trust where trustee was local private fiduciary who refused to account to settlor’s adult children. Settlor, while living in his own home, had exhibited behavior of forgetfulness and irrational thinking. Settlor’s children had all been estranged from the parent for several years. His children filed a trust petition under Probate Code §17200 to surcharge and remove the trustee. Trustee contended children lacked standing, and settlor hired counsel to also contest the petition.

  • Settlor, an 80-year-old man, married a 55-year-old woman who was hired as his caregiver through an agency eight months prior to their marriage. Settlor’s son filed a petition for conservatorship shortly afer the marriage. Settlor hired counsel to vigorously contest the conservatorship. Even though settlor had always enjoyed a loving relationship with all three of his children, he refused to communicate with them, vowing that he did not want to see them again.

  • Trust contest wherein an estranged daughter happily reconciled with her parents. Three years after the reconciliation, her parents amended their trust to name the former estranged daughter as trustee, resigning as cotrustees. After the husband died, the mother amended the original family trust, which subdivided into Survivor’s and Bypass subtrusts upon death of husband, and under the amendment the entire estate was given to the formerly estranged daughter, disinheriting entirely the parents’ two other children. The mother died, and the two disinherited children filed a trust contest in which they contend both parents lacked capacity before father’s death and further alleged the amendment was the product of undue influence. They also filed a financial elder abuse complaint against their sister.

  • Settlor, a 75-year-old man, remarried after the death of his first wife of 40 years. Settlor created a QTIP Trust for his second wife which gave her an income-only interest in the QTIP on principal of $10,000,000. After the husband died, his second wife filed a petition to modify the trust to increase the income rights to a unitrust amount of 10% of principal annually based on a claim that her husband assured her the income each year would be a minimum of 10%, and the net income was about 4% annually. Settlor’s two adult children contested her petition.

  • A 45-year-old woman suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident, rendering her in a vegetative state according to one doctor’s opinion. She was placed on a ventilator and feeding tube. The woman’s mother filed a petition for conservatorship of both person and estate. The woman’s son also filed a competing conservatorship petition. The Court appointed the mother as conservator. The court also appointed a guardian ad litem for the conservatee. The GAL ultimately filed a petition in the conservatorship proceeding seeking whether the consent for life support should be withdrawn. The GAL also discovered information that the conservator had wrongfully disposed of assets of the conservatee.

  • Husband and wife were married in 2001, a second marriage for both of them. The husband had substantial assets going into the marriage, and his wife had few assets. During the third year of their marriage, the parties executed mutual wills in which each left their estate to the other on the condition they were living together as Husband and Wife at the time of death. The husband also transferred two parcels of real property worth about $1,500,000 into joint tenancy with his wife, although the transfer deed did not specifically state that he was computing his separate property to community property. The parties separated in 2015, and both parties immediately revoked the 2003 wills. However, the husband died in 2016 before the divorce was final. The financial records established approximately $225,000 in community property earnings had been used to make mortgage payments and pay real property taxes on the two parcels before the separation. After the husband died, his daughter filed a petition under Probate Code §17200 based on various claims that his wife had no interest in the two parcels or in the husband’s estate.


  • Straus Institute, Seminar, Advanced Mediation of Complex Cases, 2003 (2 hours)
  • Creative Mediation Training, Jan Stone & Peggy Williams, 1999 (25 hours)
  • National Dispute Resolution Center, Basic Mediation Seminar, 1997 (24 hours)
  • National Dispute Resolution Center, Credentials Program, 1997 (34 hours)
  • James Melammed & Los Angeles County Bar Association, Mediation Seminar, 1996 (25 hours)
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Basic Mediation Training, 1994 (24 hours)


  • J.D., University of San Diego; San Diego, CA, 1971
  • B.A., Carson-Newman University; Jefferson City, TN, 1965


  • Member, San Diego County Bar Association, 1972-Present
  • Chair, Probate Section of San Diego County Bar Association
  • Chair, Probate Mediation Program, San Diego Superior Court
  • Judge Pro Tem, Probate Department, San Diego Superior Court
  • Member, State Bar Advisory Commission re: ADR Specialization
  • Member, Trusts and Estates Executive Committee, State Bar Association
  • CEB Continuing Education of the Bar Panels: Conservatorships; Special Needs Trust, Basics of Estate Planning, Basics of Probate; Advanced Trust & Probate Litigation; Blended Family Estate Planning
  • AV Preeminent rated with Martindale-Hubbell
  • San Diego Super Lawyers, 2009-Present
  • 2017 Top Lawyers in San Diego, San Diego Magazine


  • Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C., 1965 and 1968-1969
  • United States Navy, Medically Retired Officer, SEAL Team One, 1967-1968



Mediator • Arbitrator

B. James Brierton, Esq.

Copyright © 2018 B. JAmes Brierton, Esq. All Rights Reserved