Category Archives: New and Noteworthy




MAY 2 2024

Art Walk Reception
466 First Street East
Sonoma CA 95476

MARY PIASTA, ESQ. First femme partner,
Hauser, Valluzzo & Piasta

Impressionist Painter
Wearable art. Slow fashion.
Trashion Designer
Innovative Digital Artist


Gratitude, Service, and the Quest for Excellence

GratitudeAt its core, gratitude lets us appreciate the here and now instead of always looking for something new to make us feel happier or more fulfilled. As a recent Harvard study notes “Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.”

Here at HVP, we are grateful for the rewards of lawyering north of the bustling SF Bay Area. Here we get to practice law, raise our families, and provide civic engagement and service. Our lives are enriched because we get to offer legal advice and services to our friends and neighbors throughout the Wine Country … Read More


Megan Garner Joins Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta as Firm Continues Growth Spurt

megan_garnerSONOMA, CA – November 20, 2023 Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP is pleased to announce that Megan Garner has joined the firm as an associate. Megan’s experience in estate planning, estate administration, and business law supplements HVP’s strengths in these areas of practice. Megan’s addition to the firm continues the growth spurt precipitated by Whipple & Supple joining the firm as of counsel earlier this year to provide employment law advice and counsel to the firm’s clients. Cumulatively, these moves expand HVP’s long-time foundation in Sonoma. Combining Megan’s experience in Napa with Wright & Supple’s clientele in the North Bay, … Read More

trust puzzle

First―What is a living trust?

trust puzzleA living trust lets you manage your assets such as money, property, and business interests, with you as the one in charge as trustee. It also provides for how you want your assets managed if you are unable to do so. In those situations, a successor trustee named by you will manage your assets to your benefit during your lifetime and then distribute those assets to your beneficiaries as named in your trust without going through and paying a court.

Trusts can be set up to be revocable in case you want to change your mind at a future date. … Read More


Introducing HVP Trust Series

quoteWe want to help every family to have an estate plan. Our new Trust series will explore the basics of estate planning, show you how to navigate the trust process, determine if and when you need legal help, and assist you as needed.

When you know, you know. Everyone has an estate. And no matter how modest, almost everyone can benefit from setting up a living trust. As estate planners, we create living trusts for our clients all the time. From modest to sophisticated, we know the ropes. As part of our ‘law for everyone’ concept, we want to give … Read More

R2D2 Halloween

Robots on the Plaza

A very cool robot graced our Halloween open house this year. We are lucky enough to work with a start-up company focused on robotics, hence the visit. Their robots use artificial intelligence to interact with humans or other robots. While not frequent visitors to the Plaza, these robots provide emotional support in healthcare, learning, and other environments, including a special Halloween visit to Sonoma.… Read More


Estate Planning for Digital Assets

cell-phone-in-hand As our world becomes increasingly digitized, when we die, we leave an expansive digital footprint.  For many, this footprint includes assets, intellectual property and other information such as copyrights, photos, pictures, messages, digital currenc(ies), passwords and more.  An ever increasing question is who has access to these things after we leave the planet.

In this situation as in many others, the law often lags behind the issues of the day.   This leaves individuals, including estate planners and professional fiduciaries with the question of how to counsel clients as to assets both now and in the future.  Presently, the California Probate … Read More


Strategies to Lower Your Property Tax Bill

tax formsIt’s that time of year when property owners look towards paying that tax bill.  Your property tax bill includes payments for various things, other than property tax.  In addition to property tax, the bill includes charges for voter approved taxes and direct charges from taxing agencies. These charges are all specifically identified on one’s bill for property taxes.  A little-known fact is that these additional amounts sometimes will include various exemptions.  The most common is for senior citizens, defined as age sixty-five (65) or older.  Luckily for folks reaching this category, they can go through this list of charges and … Read More

Firework display

Latest News – Forging a new approach to legal services

Firework displayHere are some of the ideas we’re working on to enhance our legal counsel for the families and small businesses upon which Sonoma is based, and for those among us who need our help.

1. TechForward Sonoma—stay tuned for video featuring an online Sonoma History
2. CarePartners Initiative—elevating elder care and support
3. Sonoma History and Local Artist Retrospective—open-door office visits for a glimpse of Sonoma history past and present coming soon
4. Celebrate Diversity—collaborating with community members to highlight different cultures and ways of life, starting with Ana Escobar’s family recipe below.

Cumulatively, these ideas forge a new … Read More

kal-visuals happy life

HVP New Approach to Legal Services Initiative

kal-visuals happy lifeThis year we are focused on some new ideas to be more present in your lives, combining roots in the community with our deep-seated understanding of how real live translates into your legal needs.

Here are some of the ideas we’re working on to enhance our legal counsel for the families and small businesses upon which Sonoma is based, and for those among us who need our help.

  1. TechForward Sonoma—stay tuned for video featuring an online Sonoma History Tour
  2. CarePartners Initiative—elevating elder care and support
  3. Sonoma History and Local Artist Retrospective—open-door office visits for a glimpse of Sonoma history
Read More

Consider a Close Corporation

As a practice serving the legacies of families and their businesses, numerous tools need to be at-the-ready to fit the situation.  When it comes to an intimate family business owned by two individuals, there is a particular corporate structure that may be considered:  the Close Corporation.

Many think of them as a partnership dressed as a corporation.  A close corporation refers to a corporation under Corporations Codes Section 158 and 300(b).  In general, this type of corporation involves situations with few shareholders.  It is ideal for situations where the owners prefer flexibility, preferring to streamline the usual formalities of … Read More

CarePartners Initiative Forum Image

CarePartners Initiative

Mary Piasta Keynotes Upcoming CarePartners Initiative Program

Five Common Legal Issues Caregivers May Face

In her upcoming keynote address at the CarePartners Initiative Forum on May 6, 2023, HVP partner Mary Piasta combines her estate planning experience with a passion for protecting what matters most to provide a comprehensive overview of the most common legal issues that caregivers caring for older adults with dementia need to consider:

  1. Power of Attorney
  2. Advance Directives
  3. Estate Planning
  4. Putting Together a Care Team
  5. Thoughts on Skilled Nursing and Hospital Stays

heart handsCaregivers traverse an unknown terrain of new responsibilities. Come learn how foundational legal documents … Read More

shot of outside office window

Do you want to take your career in a new direction?

Do you want to take your career in a new direction?

shot of outside office windowWhat sets us apart from the competition? Everything. We are a community-based law firm focused on the business of law from the perspective of those we serve. We use our knowledge of the law to build a better world starting right here, right now. For more than 100 years, our firm has enhanced and enriched Sonoma and the surrounding community one individual and one business at a time. Our practice includes business, estate planning, real estate, and employment law, meeting personal and business needs with an emphasis on family-owned

Read More

Local Law Firm Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta Accelerates Growth with Employment Lawyers Wright & Supple

good_fit_hands_and_puzzle_piecesSONOMA, CA – February 6, 2023 – The combination of two local law firms, Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta (HVP) and Wright & Supple (W&S) expands HVP’s services to include employment law counsel through a joint effort that redefines collaboration. HVP partners Mary Piasta and Tony Valluzzo continue to reinvent the law firm business model, working with W&S, a women-owned employment law firm led by Mary Wright and Oriet Cohen-Supple. As transformational change continues to rock the legal industry, this innovative approach offers clients the legal services they need across the full spectrum of business and employment law, while controlling costs … Read More

Sometimes an estate goal is to effectively omit someone from the parade of beneficiaries. This type of disinheritance must be done properly to minimize the risk of litigation and maximize distributions to intended beneficiaries.

In 2010, California law added hoops to make disinheritance more difficult to withstand a contest. This law does require specific language in a bequest. California law presumes that direct heirs (children and spouses) will be provided for in one’s estate planning.  That said, California, unlike Napoleonic countries does not require this type of gift.

In California, one cannot simply omit them from their Will and/or Trust. … Read More

Wine Country has its beauty, including the many people who flock here to live. It is becoming more common for non-citizens to take up abodes here. This goes back to the founding of Sonoma heavily influenced by international residents. For those interested in a delightful historic recap consider viewing the documentary the Call of the Valley.

The question arises, how does living in the US impact the ability and strategies with estate planning? This is not an easy answer. Often factors relating to citizenship goals can drive a response. These couple with the laws of the citizenship country. For … Read More

legacy and succession

Legacy & Succession

Thomas A. Haeuser

legacy and successionPartner Thomas A. Haeuser takes on new role as HVP advisor and community leader

We are proud and pleased to announce that our long-time partner Thomas Haeuser will be taking on a new role at the firm in the new year. Effective January 1 2022, Tom will continue to serve in an advisory capacity, taking a step back from active practice to focus on community activities. Those around town already know Tom for his presence on the Plaza and his unflagging efforts to make our town and the surrounding community a special place for businesses and families … Read More

Business Compliance 

Our year-end checklist provides useful tips for year-round check-ups.

Top 5 Year-end Business Compliance Checklist

  1. Performance and Operations ‒ I have discussed and mapped out performance and operations with management and legal counsel.  Yes  No
  2. Entity Structure/Governing Instruments ‒ I have reviewed my business entity structure and updated articles of organization/incorporation, operating agreement, bylaws, partnership, or other agreements as needed.  Yes  No
  3. I am up to date on all corporate formalities for California corporations to maintain my personal liability protection.  Yes  No
  4. I have finalized my year-end accounting and closed the books for the calendar or fiscal year
Read More

Proposition 19 Impacts Family Winery Legacy

A recent legacy case illustrates how Proposition 19 impacts grandparents wishing to leave their family vineyard property to their granddaughter.

Change in the Law
Effective February 16, 2021, Prop. 19 modified the reassessment exclusion for parents and grandparents wishing to pass down their property to their children or grandchildren who were not going to live there, leaving certain estates vulnerable.

What About the Exclusion Limits?
Prior to Prop. 19, primary residences of unlimited value could be transferred avoiding reassessment up to an additional $1 million of assessed value. This also had zero requirement that the child lives at that property. … Read More

Estate Planning Top 10 Checklist

Estate Planning

We can work with you to review your business, real estate, and family holdings for tax issues to craft and maintain your succession plan for life, and what comes after.

Top 10 Year-end Estate Planning Checklist

  1. Personal Status ‒ My health, wealth, and chosen decision-makers are still the same  Yes  No
  2. Legal Guardians ‒ The legal guardians I’ve selected for my minor children are up to date and consistent with my wishes?  Yes  No
  3. Legal Documents ‒ I have my legal documents in place including a power of attorney, health care directive, will and (when needed) trust  Yes 
Read More

Proposition 19 & Entities

Prop 19 & Entities: Legal Update and Estate Planning Strategy

One of the major exclusions from property reassessment is the exclusion of real property that is owned by a legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership, or LLC, as provided in Revenue & Taxation Code section 64. In a nutshell, it provides that when realty is owned by a legal entity, certain changes in the ownership of the entity do not constate sale of the realty itself, unless a new person or entity gains control of the entity. For example, if real property is owned by a corporation, shares of … Read More


Firm Announcement

anthony_valluzzoHVP Partner Tony Valluzzo Named to 2021 “Lawyers of Distinction” List by Sonoma Magazine

Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP is pleased to announce that Sonoma Magazine has named partner Anthony R. Valluzzo for inclusion in its list of 2021 “Lawyers of Distinction” in the category of business law.

Sonoma Magazine’s inaugural “Lawyers of Distinction” list recognizes the county’s top legal practitioners. Candidates who live or work in the greater Sonoma five-county region were peer-recommended. A third-party research firm conducted the peer nominating and vetting process, ensuring its independence and authenticity. Inclusion in the list is based on the opinions of … Read More

HVP’s Tom Haeuser Steps Up to FISH Board of Directors and Sonoma County Library Commission

Tom HaeuserSONOMA, CA – July 26, 2021 – Prominent business and estate planning law firm Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP is pleased to announce that Tom Haeuser, name partner and Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law, has stepped up his roles in two vital community service organizations, Friends Helping Friends (FISH) and the Sonoma County Library Commission. Tom was recently selected President of the FISH Board of Directors, continuing his longstanding affiliation with an organization that has been lending a helping hand to neighbors in need for 50 years. Tom also accepted an appointment to serve a … Read More

Sonoma Law Firm Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta in Growth Mode – Adds Staff for Concierge Services

HVP Group PhotoSONOMA, Calif. – May, 2021 – Reinventing the law firm business model, HVP lawyers return to the basics of legal services with an emphasis on lawyers and staff working together to offer a concierge service experience. The addition of staffers Lori Beth Merrill and Penny Martin underscores HVP’s long-standing reputation for working seamlessly with clients. Committed to providing the ‘white glove’ treatment . Penny’s adept management of client-attorney interactions and communications and Lori Beth’s background as a real estate appraiser complement the legal services offered by HVP’s three partners, Thomas A. Haeuser, Anthony R. Valluzzo, and Mary Piasta.

The firm … Read More

Virtual Fiduciary Presentation

Fiduciary originates from Latin fidere, which means “to trust.”

Join the discussion between lawyer Mary Piasta and Lori Beth Merrill of Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP as they discuss the things you want to know about fiduciaries, what they are, how they are regulated, and how they can help loved ones.

In case you missed it…

Click here to view the video  courtesy of Vintage House Sonoma… Read More

Three Cheers for PPP

The December relief package created a second draw for businesses that have exhausted their PPP.  This PPP list includes an Expanded List of Expenses Qualifying for Forgiveness.  The list of expenses that PPP funds can be used for that qualify for loan forgiveness has been expanded to include: 

  • “operations expenses” defined as payments for business software and cloud computing services and other human resources and accounting needs that facilitate business operations; 
  • “supplier costs” defined as payments to a supplier for goods that are essential to the operations of the borrower pursuant to a contract or purchase order in effect before
Read More

How California Law Helps Seniors Avoid the Scenario in the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot

An upcoming Seminar on April 16 at Vintage House.

This complimentary seminar features Anthony Valluzzo, a partner at the Sonoma law firm of Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP. Tony draws on a wealth of estate planning experience to craft solid legal strategies that provide peace of mind for life and after. While not as chilling as the movie version, Tony will provide an overview of California law addressing court-appointed conservatorships, outlining the estate planning tools that can ensure your welfare stays out of the hands of the courts. He will discuss how to empower those you trust to make decisions … Read More


Securing Your Digital Property and Passing it Along

intel-propIn this day and age of websites, blogs, coaching programs and such, if you own a business that has these things, if something were to happen to you, what would happen to these things?

These sort of things are what is referred to as ‘intellectual properties’ and if you have a will or estate plan that includes directives for your business you might think more about protecting these aspects to your business or endeavor.

Under the law, in the broadest sense an intellectual property is an abstract item such a concept, ideas or formula and so on. To protect things … Read More

name change

Name Changes & Legality

Recently as marriage equality and identity classifications have been critiqued more closely by the LGBTQ community, here’s some info about name changes.

Basically it’s not that difficult.

Anybody can change their name legally. Just make sure it is not to commit fraud or make a false identity.

The simplest and most common is when people marry.

Today’s customs and attitudes about marriage lets women keep a “maiden name” or allows for a hyphenated name.

Hyphenated names are used in England. Historically, it has been part of the class or caste-system in English society. Hyphenated names were passed down as a … Read More


Beginner’s Guide to Bankruptcy

by Mary Piasta

bankruptcyWhen we talk of asset protection, many think of bankruptcy.  But there is a social norm with this type of word preventing many from considering it seriously.  The truth is that many very wealthy individuals in our country are not so dissuaded and utilize filing for bankruptcy as a means to preserve wealth.

For example, one entrepreneur went through bankruptcy four times in his life and left a legacy including a private foundation.  For others it means wiping the slate clean to rebuild their wealth.

Historically speaking bankruptcy was a way to depart from the English precedent … Read More