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(925) 253-1717
John L. McDonnell Jr. Attorney, Of Counsel

John L. McDonnell Jr. is certified as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. His practice includes all aspects of the planning and administration of trusts and decedents’ estates, fiduciary asset management and litigation relating to trusts and estates; international estate and trust planning and administration; marital property agreements; mediation and arbitration in estate-related disputes; consultation and testimony as an expert witness in estate-related litigation; and service as court-appointed special master, trustee and guardian ad litem. Mr. McDonnell has experience also in the representation of court-appointed receivers, construction litigation, plaintiffs’ personal injury litigation, marital dissolutions, aircraft accident litigation and criminal defense representation.

He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for 18 consecutive years and as a California Super Lawyer for 11 consecutive years.

His Martindale-Hubbell Rating is AV.

Mr. McDonnell was born in Oakland, California, and attended local public and parochial grammar and secondary schools. He received his A.B. degree, maxima cum laude, from St. Patrick’s College (Seminary), Menlo Park, California (major: philosophy) and his J.D. degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. He has pursued further studies at Notre Dame University and at Holy Names University. He has practiced law in Oakland, San Francisco and Orinda since his admission to the State Bar of California.

He enjoys music, traveling, trout fishing, reading, and has a conversational and reading knowledge of Italian, French and Spanish.

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • Supreme Court of the United States: Member of the Supreme Court Bar
  • State Bar of California: Admitted, January 6, 1964; Delegate, Conference of Delegates, 1973-1986; 1991, 2000-2001; Chair, Committee on Sections and Committees, 1982-1983; Member, Board of Governors, 1986-1989: Chair, Board Committee on Legal Services, 1987-1988; Chair, Board Committee on Professional Standards and Admissions, 1988-1989; Vice President, 1988-89; Chair, Consortium on Competence, 1987-1990; Chair, Committee on Competence, 1990-1991; Member, Executive Committee, Committee on Probate and Trust Law, 1976-1977; Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section: Member, Executive Committee, 1977-1983, Chair, 1981-82, Advisor, 1983-1986, Chair, Legislation Committee, 1990-1991
  • Alameda County Bar Association: Probate Committee, Chair, 1980-1990; Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section, Chair, 1990-91; Legislation Committee, Chair of Subcommittee on Probate and Estate Planning, 1982 and 1983; Drug Advisory Task Force, 1993-1999
  • American Bar Association: Member, Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and Forum on Franchising; Advisor, Standing Committee on Lawyer Competence, 1988-1993; Member, House of Delegates, 1988-present; State Membership Co-Chair for California, 1996-2001; Member, Board of Governors, 2000-2003 and 2015-2018; Member, Standing Committee on Meetings and Travel, 2003-2006 and 2011-2014; Member, ABA Day Committee, 2006-2016; Member, Standing Committee on Membership, 2009-2011;. State Delegate, 2007-2015; House of Delegates Committee memberships: Credentials and Admissions Committee, 2005-2006; Committee on Issues of Concern to the Legal Profession, 2006-2007, Chair, 2007-2008; Select Committee of the House of Delegates, 2010-2011; Committee on Resolution and Impact Review, 2012-2013; Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee, 2014-2015; Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work, 2012-2015
  • The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel: elected Fellow, 1978; Member, State Membership Committee, 1981-present; Member, Editorial Board, 1984-1989; Member, Fiduciary Litigation Committee, 1996-present, Chair, Will and Trust Contests Subcommittee, 2000-2003, Committee Chair, 2003-2006; Member, Practice Committee, 1986-1997; Member, Program Committee, 1991-1992; Chair, Expanded Practice Subcommittee, 1992-1996; Member, Charitable Planning and Exempt Organizations Committee, 2000-2003; State Chair, 1991-1996; Member, Board of Regents, 1998-2004; Co-Chair, Strategic Planning Task Force, 2004-2006; Member, International Estate Planning Committee, 2006-2009
  • California Continuing Education of the Bar Program: Lecturer and Author (classes and publications for lawyers in estate planning, the administration of estates and trusts and estate-related litigation)
  • University of San Francisco Law Society: Secretary, 1969-1973; Vice President, 1974; President, 1975 (elective positions in law school alumni organization)
  • University of San Francisco School of Law: Board of Visitors, 1975-1978; Board of Counselors, 1978-present
  • Testimony before various committees of the California Legislature; work with various California legislators, members of Congress and staff in regard to legislation affecting the legal profession


  • Handling a Decedent’s Estate (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1977)
  • How to Administer a Decedent’s Estate (with Betty J. Orvell) (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1989; revised editions, 1990 and 1991)
  • Consultant, California Will Drafting (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1979 Supplement and 1992 Edition)
  • “Effects of Recent Legislation on Administration of Testamentary Trusts” (State Bar of California Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section, 1983)
  • “Drafting Spousal Benefits in the Non-Marital Trust” (American College of Probate Counsel Probate Notes, Fall, 1984)
  • “Court Supervision of Trusts Under California Law, Protection for the Beneficiary and Problems for the Lawyer” (Estate Planning 1985, California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1985)
  • Consultant, California Decedent Estate Practice (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1986)
  • Post-Death Tax Elections (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1987; revised edition, 1992, with Betty J. Orvell) and CEB Estate Planning & California Probate Reporter, Volume VIII, Number 6 (June, 1987)
  • Estate Planning for Employee Benefits (with Betty J. Orvell) (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1989; revised edition, 1993)
  • “An Introduction to Estate Planning for Employee Benefits and IRAs” (with Betty J. Orvell) CEB Estate Planning & California Probate Reporter, Volume XI, Number 2 (October, 1989)
  • “Planning for Distributions for Employee Benefits and IRAs: Income Tax Strategies and Techniques” (with Betty J. Orvell and Jeffrey A. Dennis-Strathmeyer) CEB Estate Planning and California Probate Reporter, Volume XI, Number 4 (February, 1990)


  • Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums: Co-Founder; Chair, 1983-1996; Secretary, 1996-2016
  • Holy Names University, Member, Board of Regents, 1976-1999; Board of Trustees, 1999-2006
  • Mills College, Oakland, California, Member, Board of Trustees, 2008-present; Member, Advancement, Finance and Trustee Selection Committees; Chair, Campus Planning Committee
  • Oakland Museum of California Foundation: Member, Board of Trustees, 1992-2000; Vice Chair, 1998-1999; Chair, 1999-2000; Chair, Nominating Committee, 2000-2001; Member, Board of Trustees, 2007-2013
  • East Bay Community Foundation: Member, Board of Trustees, 1994-2004
  • Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Member, Trusts and Estates Programs Board, 1992-2001; Chair, Planned Giving Committee of the Cathedral Development Committee, 1997-2001
  • Conductor, Oakland Cathedral Choir and other diocesan choirs, 1965-2009
  • Cathedral Project, Diocese of Oakland: Chair, Steering Committee, 1999-2003; Project Director, 2003-2011
  • Catholic Cathedral Corporation of the East Bay, President and Chief Operating Officer, 2008-2011
  • Christ the Light Cathedral Corporation, President, 2008-2011
  • The Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation, Member and Director, current

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