With over 20 years practicing family law, estate planning, and probate, including having his own firm for six years, in 2017 Brian G. Winter added his credentials to Stewart Law Group as associate attorney. Family-oriented, it’s no surprise the breadth of his practice centers on individuals and families. Winter thrives at helping people navigate sensitive and difficult matters.
Winter was born and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut. At age 18, he left Fairfield to attend college and law school in New York City. He attended St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, earning his bachelor’s degree in government and politics and his Juris Doctor from SJU’s School of Law. As a New York transplant, Winter considers the Big Apple his “home away from home” to this very day. In 1994, he was admitted to practice law in New York, Connecticut, and Florida. He is also admitted to the United States District Court, District of Connecticut.
Winter worked with NYC law firms for a few years, but eventually made his way back to Connecticut to raise his family. Arizona was a frequent destination with close relatives living in Phoenix. The Winters fell for the capital city and its abundant sunshine. They decided to adopt the Valley as their new home. He wound down his Connecticut law practice and they relocated to Phoenix. Being near family was very important. In 2014, Winter joined the State Bar of Arizona, Scottsdale Bar Association, and Maricopa County Bar Association. He served on the MCBA Board of Directors in 2016.
ESTATE PLANNING TO BRIDGE GENERATIONS
Estate planning is both productive and non-adversarial, two aspects of the practice Winter likes along with helping people determine their legacy.
“I have the opportunity to know my clients on a personal level,” says Winter, “and to tailor an estate plan to meet each individual’s objectives.” Everyone should have a say in the disposition of their personal property and assets, as well as determining who will raise their children should they predecease them or become incapacitated.
“Essentially, I help people create an orderly and efficient plan to transfer their assets so they have peace of mind knowing their wishes will be honored when they pass.”
With clients who are too sick to come to the office, Winter has met them at home or in the hospital to complete their estate plan. There are some logistical difficulties to executing an estate plan in the hospital, but it can be done and is well worth the effort. Explaining why this work is so important, “the person can pass peacefully knowing it’s done, that all affairs are in order.”
In his estate planning and probate practice, Winter helps clients carefully plan for the future and address present concerns, such as guardianship of a child or conservatorship of an elderly parent. Describing a difficult situation for any family, Winter talks about “many clients caught between raising young children and being the primary caregiver of an elderly parent.” Whatever the client’s circumstances, he puts each on a path to achieve specified estate planning goals.
MINIMIZING LITIGATION IN PROBATE
Many people experience ADR in family law cases, particularly custody mediation. But ADR plays a strong role in probate, too. In a dispute over division of a deceased parent’s intestate estate, for example, mediation can help heirs arrive at a settlement agreement.
Winter has concentrated many years on ADR with meaningful results. He has served as mediator, client advocate in collaborative law, guardian ad litem (GAL), and special master. Clients benefit from his keen insight, complex problem-solving, and extensive knowledge of non-litigation dispute resolution. Cooperative settlement helps minimize the emotional impact of probate and can save costs by avoiding expensive trial preparation. Winter believes, “it often takes a better lawyer to settle a case than to try a case, especially where children are involved.” In 2011, he completed 40-hours of mediation training with the Center for Understanding Conflict and advanced training with the Center for Mediation in Law.
ROLE OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM
Winter’s experience as guardian ad litem extends to both family law and probate cases. In probate cases, Winter was directly involved in appointment of guardians and conservators of individuals alleged incompetent or incapable of meeting their own day-to-day needs. GALs in Arizona are also court-appointed.
This attorney does everything possible to get the parties to resolve their disputes without court intervention. But when litigation is necessary, he’s your guy. An experienced negotiator and litigator, he has received a collection of accolades from AVVO’s Client Choice Award in divorce and family law to the National Insitute of Legal Counsel’s 10 Best Attorneys for estate planning.
Winter is a big believer in giving back to the community and donating time. By volunteering, “you’re helping yourself as much as, if not more than, the individuals you’re assisting.”
He has volunteered for Wills for Heroes and for the past two years has served as committee chair for Boy Scouts of America Troop 30.
Winter spent many years volunteering his time with Habitat for Humanity Coastal Fairfield County, Inc., serving on its board of directors from 2006 to 2013. He was also the organization’s legal counsel. For his service, Habitat awarded Winter its prestigious Second Mile Award in 2008. Habitat’s model, where people come together to create affordable homeownership and housing, is especially meaningful.
“I was able to see how owning a home and having a safe place to live helped transform individual lives,” he says. “For me, that’s what it’s all about.”