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C. David Spence

C. David Spence


San Jose Office 408.286.5800 Vcard Email

Areas of Focus:

For over 30 years, Mr. Spence has provided his clients with innovative planning strategies for protecting and optimizing family wealth, through tax, estate, trust, business and philanthropic planning. He brings this extensive experience to bear not only in traditional estate planning contexts, but also in the context of tax and wealth planning in advance of major liquidity and business funding events and in preparation for immigration or emigration.

Mr. Spence's clients are domestic and international individuals, families, businesses, charitable organizations and corporate fiduciaries.  In his long career, he has advised some of the largest, and most complex estates in the world.  They engage him for his innovative, outside-the-box thinking, but he is just as comfortable advising Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and helping family businesses become multi-generational.

Representative Cases

  • Co-counsel in successful representation of taxpayer in Paullus v Commissioner, 72 T.C.M. 636 (1996), where IRS attempted to deny section 1031 like-kind exchange treatment for a real estate transaction.
  • Obtained a favorable Private Letter Ruling from the IRS related to insurance benefits provided to shareholders by an S-corporation. 
  • Obtained a favorable Private Letter Ruling related to qualification of a testamentary trust for Electing Small Business Trust (“ESBT”) treatment.
  • Represented trustees of a decedent’s trust in an estate tax audit in which IRS attorneys attempted to deny the charitable contribution deduction for amounts passing to charity via a charitable remainder trust.  Mr. Spence was able to, save the estate hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes.
  • Represented trustees of a decedent’s trust in an estate tax audit, successfully rejecting IRS’ attempts to assess estate tax liability on the value of Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (“GRAT”) assets.  Mr. Spence was able to save the family hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal estate taxes. 
  • Represented real estate owner and developer in planning to minimize estate and gift tax effects from transfer of real estate interests to children and grandchildren through sales to Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (“IDGT”).
  • Assisted a retiring physician in turning a personal residence his family had outgrown into a substantial retirement income, while also accomplishing the physician’s philanthropic objectives by using a charitable remainder unitrust (“CRUT”) to sell his home without capital gain taxes.
  • Successfully obtained judicial reformation of a decades-old irrevocable life insurance trust (“ILIT”) to allow it to qualify for estate tax minimization benefits and satisfy the settlor’s intentions in creating the trusts, given changed circumstances in the decades since the trusts were formed.
  • Advised a U.S. resident son in structuring gifts and inheritance he expected to receive from foreign parents to eliminate or minimize income tax, estate tax, and gift tax, and to create a multi-generational family legacy by using trusts in favorable jurisdictions, both outside of California and outside of the United States.
  • Created a series of “laddered” Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (“QPRT”), allowing for the efficient transfer of millions of dollars in value to the succeeding generation without gift or estate tax.
  • Represented successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in leveraging the benefits of Qualified Small Business Stock (QSBS) exemption upon sale of company stock, while also minimizing or eliminating altogether the state income taxes which would otherwise apply, through the use of Nevada and Delaware Incomplete Gift Non-grantor Trusts (“NING” and “DING” trusts).
  • Represented a bank trust company in tax matter, successfully obtaining IRS abatement of penalties from inadvertent under-distribution of IRA funds of which a trust managed by the bank was the beneficiary. 
  • Advised real estate owner and operator in the transfer of business interests to children in a manner which would preserve the Prop 13/Prop 58 California property tax benefits for the children.
  • Advised a family in how to structure real estate ownership to minimize or eliminate the deleterious effects of California real property taxes after passage of Prop 19.
  • Advised clients on ways to plan against the taxes imposed upon incomplete gift trusts by 2023 legislation (California SB 131).


In his spare time, David enjoys playing golf, riding motorcycles, and playing guitar.

Professional Admissions

  • State Bar of California
  • United States Tax Court
  • United States District Court (Northern District of California)


  • Mr. Spence is a frequent public speaker in continuing education programs for attorneys, accountants, bankers, and financial advisors. He has been asked to present at tax and estate planning educational events for many different banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions, as well as various regional, national, and international accounting firms and professional associations.  In addition, he has been a speaker for the California CPA Society’s annual Estate Planning Symposium; the Silicon Valley Bar, Palo Alto Area Bar Association, Santa Cruz County Bar Association, Sacramento County Bar, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP)—Silicon Valley, and several different Estate Planning Council chapters.  In addition to the classroom, David has frequently appeared on various radio and multi-media broadcast and podcast programs, speaking on estate planning, philanthropy, and tax planning topics.

Activities / Memberships

  • Member of California Lawyers Association sections on Taxation; Estate Planning, Probate and Trust; and Business Law
  • J. Reuben Clark Law Society
  • Palo Alto Area Bar Association

Academic Positions

  • Adjunct Professor (June 2011 – present) Lucas Graduate School of Business, San Jose State University, Master of Science in Taxation (“MST”) degree program, where he teaches “Taxation of Estates and Trusts.”


  • J.D., J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (1991)
    • Moot Court Honors Board
  • M. Acc. in Taxation, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (1986)
    • Beta Alpha Psi
  • B.S. in Accounting, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (1986)