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Karl de Costa

Partner, through his Professional Corporation - los angeles


Cracking open Webster’s and looking up the definition of a renaissance man yields a simple description . . . a man who is interested in and knows a lot about many things. But digging deeper, you discover comparisons to people like Leonardo da Vinci and the activity, spirit, and time of the great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe beginning in the 14th century and extending into the 17th century, marking the transition from the medieval to the modern world.

How befitting to label Karl de Costa a renaissance man, given his undergraduate degree in art history, and his minor in renaissance studies. True to form and living up to the world he discovered at The Colorado College, this unassuming man of Portuguese and Polynesian descent embraced the exploration of humanities and the liberal arts. Finding the French horn in high school, an incredibly difficult instrument to master, he continued his love of music in college with the sounds of opera and early music.

Performing in theater and concert -- his most famous role being in Verdi’s Falstaff -- was a passionate endeavor during his collegiate career. Thinking he would take his artful degree and become a museum curator, Karl abruptly switched gears after a successful LSAT score, prompted by the urging of his mother, a longtime paralegal in Honolulu. After his first year of law school, as a summer intern, he surprisingly discovered a crossover between his passion for all things renaissance and the world of trust & estates law when a dispute over a valuable old world collection landed on his desk. Another of his early cases involved post-death title and entitlement disputes regarding a massive collection of sketches, drawings, and paintings by Alberto Vargas. There was no turning back.

Whether he’s singing with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, raising bantam chickens in his backyard, studying a foreign language, or leading a discussion-group with his book club “salon,” Karl is an embodiment of the both the abbreviated and more colorful definition of the quintessential renaissance man.


Legal Expertise

Probate law focusing on disputed and contested probate and trust matters, estate and trust administration, and estate planning.

Representative Matters

  • Handled principal and ancillary probate administrations for the executor of the estate of an international businessman in the U.S., Hong Kong, and the Philippines and successfully transferred assets governed by the laws of Liberia, Panama, and China; negotiated favorable tax treatment for the estate in multiple jurisdictions and participated in negotiations for sale of multimillion dollar global business in which the decedent was part owner.
  • Assisted in invalidating a purported trust disinheriting the adopted daughter of a deceased woman on grounds that the trust resulted from undue influence exerted by the woman's neighbor. The favorable ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. Through subsequent probate court proceedings, the daughter was determined to be entitled to inherit her mother's estate through intestacy.
  • Served as first-chair trial counsel in successful effort to remove an ex-husband trustee on grounds of imprudent investments and hostility to beneficiaries. 
  • Analyzed operative pleadings and key documents in pending will contest on behalf of a prominent charity; drafted a formal response letter to the contestants' counsel resulting in the complete and voluntary withdrawal of the suit.
  • Assisted with successful prosecution of a claim and defense of all counterclaims regarding ownership of over $10 million in artwork improperly held by breaching fiduciary. An even better verdict was obtained after appellate proceedings (including a successful opposition to review in the California Supreme Court). The client was ultimately entitled to all artwork she sought plus a significant damages award.

Honors & Awards

  • "Top 5% of lawyers in Southern California," Southern California Super Lawyers (2010-2020)
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers in America© in Litigation - Trusts and Estates (2021-2024)

Other Career Experience

  • Judicial Extern to the Hon. Calvin K. Ashland, Chief Justice of the Bankruptcy Court of the Central District of California



  • California, 1996
  • U.S. District Court
  •     Central District of California, 1996
  • U.S. Court of Appeals
  •     Ninth Circuit, 1996
  • California Supreme Court, 1996


University of California Los Angeles School of Law, J.D., 1996; Order of the Coif; Phi Delta Phi

Graduated 4th in class

Colorado College, B.A., 1993; magna cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa

J. Juan Reid Award for Excellence in the Liberal Arts

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