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Celaya Law - Estate Planning and Elder Law


Anthony Celaya is a Napa-based attorney who operates differently than many of his peers. For one, he focuses exclusively on estate planning and elder law, and nothing else. For another, he doesn’t bill hourly. Instead, he charges flat fee only so that clients know exactly what the process will cost them. A former educator at Stanford and UC Berkeley, Celaya holds free monthly workshops to explain the estate planning process, how he works with clients, and what his fees are. Potential clients can also come in for a free consultation session. He views his clients as clients for life—if someone has questions or needs follow-up after their planning process is “finished,” there is no additional charge, ever. “We call it lifetime client care,” said Celaya. And while other attorneys may play basketball, Celaya is an avid player. On some Saturdays he plays twice—once at 7 a.m. at his church, and then again from noon to 2 p.m. Oh, and those afternoon games? They’re played at San Quentin prison.

“One of the guys from church invited me to play at San Quentin,” said Celaya. “I didn’t know this when I started, but the facility is a model for reforming convicts. The buzzword there is ‘family,’ which is incredibly important to me.” At halftime, an inmate will share his story with everyone, not only what he did to get in prison, but what he is trying to do with his life now. The guys on the inside have no idea how much Celaya and the other “outsiders” get from hearing inmates share. “It’s a blessing for all of us.”

Celaya has a relaxed, easy-going manner. There is nothing stuffy about him. He grew up in San Mateo and attended BYU for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He planned on getting an MBA, but a friend/mentor and his wife, who are both attorneys, convinced him to go into law instead. “I loved their worldview and the way they organized their thoughts.” While in law school, Celaya taught Spanish and Missionary training to other students. That morphed into teaching religion to single adults. After graduation, he was offered a teaching position in the North Bay which included Solano Community College, Napa Valley College, UCSF, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, among others. He and his wife, Elizabeth, bought a home in Fairfield in 2000. She focused on raising their family (first three boys, followed by three girls) and he taught. After a year, Celaya, “bit the bullet and took the bar exam.” Needless to say, he passed.

Celaya met Napa financial planner, Tom Mills, who was looking for a new estate planning attorney to work with. He and Celaya hit it off both personally and professionally, and Mills offered to refer clients to him. He began building relationships with other financial and legal professionals, enrolled his kids in Napa schools, and in 2004 moved his family to the Napa Valley and began his practice in earnest. He still held onto the teaching position for another 14 years, until August of last year.

“Being a teacher, that’s who I am,” he said. “It’s my passion.” As important as teaching is to him, he wanted to get out of the classroom while he was at the top of his game. “It has to be fresh. I’ve known teachers who have been using the same lesson plans for a decade, and I didn’t want to fall into that.”

The good news for Celaya’s clients is that he approaches the law as a teaching opportunity. “What prevents most people from doing estate planning is that they just don’t want to think about it. It seems confusing, overwhelming, and fraught with difficult decisions. And of course no one likes to think about death.” Celaya’s free monthly workshops are opportunities for potential clients to learn as much about the process as they can before having to commit. He views his relationship with clients as familial. “Family is what it’s all about for me. That has to come first.” Clients like his approach. “The feedback I hear the most from clients is ‘You made the process so much easier than I thought it would be.’ That’s what I want to achieve.”

Celaya likes the intimacy of a small shop and plans on remaining a boutique firm. Estate planning often involves looking at difficult family issues and the consequences on everyone, and he’s made it his mission to help put families in the best possible position if a parent dies. It’s the same for his associate attorney, Meghan Avila. “Meghan is the ideal blend of capability and compassion. She fits our firm’s mission perfectly.” Celaya is constantly working to develop and refine himself and his firm to better meet the needs of their clients.

Celaya will always be a teacher at heart, and he has found a meaningful way to stay in the classroom. “I teach Sunday School at church every week,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I told the Bishop that I’ll never give that up.”

Call them at 492-3112, or visit celayalaw.com for a list of free monthly workshops.

1455 First Street, Suite 210 , Napa | (707) 492-3112 | celayalaw.com

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