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James K. Leese

JAMES K. LEESE is a Senior Partner in the law firm FERRUZZO. Born in Dayton, Ohio, he was admitted to the California bar in 1979. The State Bar of California has recognized him as a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law.

In the early years of Mr. Leese’s practice, he focused on the areas of business and real estate transactions and civil litigation.  With that broad background, in the mid 1980's Mr. Leese's practice switched to focusing on estate planning. Thus began the expansion of the firm’s estate planning footprint, stretching from one attorney to what are now many attorneys who are able to concentrate upon different aspects of the estate planning, estate and trust administration, probates and litigation, making FERRUZZO well known and respected within the Orange County community and beyond.  

These days Mr. Leese limits his primary practice to the transaction side of estate planning and business succession planning, serving clients, and their advisors, in a team approach, to recognize and solve the complex relational and tax issues which make up trust planning, succession planning, and estate and gift tax planning.  Mr. Leese continues to mentor and counsel the attorneys within the firm’s estate planning practice, and still serves as the firm's Chair of the Estate Planning and (uncontested) Trust Administration Practice Group.

For 25 years Mr. Leese taught estate planning courses that were being offered in the Personal Financial Planning Certificate Program at the University of California’s Extension and Continuing Education programs. He was a guest speaker on succession planning, for the Cal State Fullerton’s undergraduate class on Family Business Dynamics. He has spoken to such groups as the National Business Institute, the Orange County/Long Beach Chapter of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Arthritis Foundation, the Easter Seals Society, and to many civil service employees of many federal agencies, which have included the United States Airforce, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Naturalization, and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Mr. Leese is married to Jennifer Leese, and together they have five children, Angela, Lauren, Alyssa, Ryder and Dylan.

Areas of Practice

  • Fundamental Estate Planning, Trusts, Wills and Powers of Attorney (health and financial)
  • Advanced Estate Planning (Lifetime and Death transfers)
  • Trust Administration (uncontested)
  • Business Succession (family owned business succession)
  • Charitable Planning

Bar Admissions

State Bar of California, 1979


The Defiance College
Defiance, Ohio
Bachelor of Science, Political Science, 1975
Cum laude

Pepperdine University School of Law
Malibu, California, Juris Doctor, 1978

Golden Gate University
San Francisco, California
Master of Science in Taxation, 1992

Published Works

  • Advanced Estate Planning for Financial Professionals,  (Co-Author) 1996 -2010
  • Estate Planning & Taxation, (Contributor), Kendal-Hunt 1996, 2012
  • Best Estate Plans Take Family Dynamics into Consideration, Best Practices for Structuring Trusts and Estates, 2015 Edition, 2015 Thomson Reuters / Aspatore

Professional Associations and Memberships

Super Lawyers 15 years (2007 -2011 and 2014- 2023)