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Problem Children: Drugs, Alcohol and Contested Estates

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Problem children, drugs and alcohol are a potent mix that often sparks serious estate battles.

Our families are at risk from those who abuse drugs and alcohol. In California over one-third of traffic deaths involve a drunk driver and over 25% of crash fatalities are drug-involved. 81% of arrests in Sacramento involve persons testing positive for illegal drug use.

When it comes to estates, substance abuse can cause the disposition of family assets to take unexpected directions. The potential for painful drama often begins when a problem child -an adult, unemployed and living with an elder parent - begins to take hold of his or her parent's finances.

Dangerous implications follow. A parent's savings may be drained, and deep family divisions may occur as an elderly parent is frozen out from communication with other children. Bank accounts are changed to include the abusive child. Often times a power of attorney is given to the child - an invitation to raid the cookie jar.

A problem-child substance abuser may not be the only way to ruin a parent's estate, but the pattern is the same. They'll take the parent to an unwitting or deceived attorney to change the parent's estate plan. Most changes involve the replacement of a responsible trustee or successor trustee with the problem child. They'll also change the beneficiary designations - the house goes to the problem child - maybe everything - but at the very least, the problem child gets an inordinate share of the estate.

The parent's death may be the first signal of financial wrongdoing by the alcohol or substance abuser. The house was transferred to the wrongdoer before the parent's death, bank accounts are gone, a new will or trust is in place, and secrecy hides wrongdoing.

It takes experience to solve the puzzle of rights and remedies in a contested probate, estate and trust case. An elder has a right to be free of physical and financial coercion. This right is enforced after the discovery of wrongdoing - unfortunately, the discovery often occurs after the elder's death.

The remedy for wrongdoing is to hold the wrongdoer responsible. Judicial resources must be employed to wrong the right. Experienced legal counsel will explore the costs and benefits of litigation and identify the choices available to wronged heirs and beneficiaries among several potentially acceptable legal remedies.

If you need an experienced counsel to help you deal with the fallout from the wrongful activities of an alcohol or drug abuser on your relative's estate, we at Hackard Law can assist you. We work to protect our clients' interests and to prevent future harm to them. Call us at 916 313-3030.

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