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House Fights in Estate Disputes

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Estate fights are a battleground encompassing family histories, financial wrongdoing, emotional shocks, and dashed expectations. Most cases involve a parent or relative who worked hard for his or her money deceived by a wrongdoer who worked just as hard to unlawfully take it.

Most family members are not protected or prepared for an estate fight. Secrecy is part and parcel of a wrongdoer's actions. Discovery of wrongdoing might often be delayed by the wrongdoer's intentional isolation of the parent or relative and the obfuscation of facts after the decedent's death.

Successful challenges to estate wrongdoing take a concerted effort by wronged relatives and their probate, estate and trust litigators' against the wrongdoer. One of the most common estate wrongs is the encumbrance, pre-death transfer or proposed estate transfer of the family house to a wrongdoer.

Such transfers fit patterns, and there are many factors in play. An experienced estate lawyer may more quickly identify these patterns than those who are less experienced. So let me tell you how the Hackard Law litigation team identifies the patterns endemic to house fights and the remedies available to overcome wrongdoing.

The first part of our estate litigation decision cycle is observation. We collect current information from as many sources as reasonable within a limited time frame. When it comes to estate and house litigation this is a "who, what, when, where, and why" analysis.

Who are the participants? The parent or wronged relative? The wrongdoer? The abused beneficiaries? The disinherited? A bad trustee or executor? What property is involved? When were transfers made? And why are such transfers wrongful?

The next part of Hackard Law's decision cycle is orienting how the facts fit chronologically and thematically. Chronological orientation is often the creation of a simple timeline - such as the chronology of wills, trusts, transfer dates, health data, and isolation issues. Such chronologies can point to more general case themes - a sister who never worked and took all of Dad's assets before he died, a neighbor who befriended an Alzheimer's victim who then transferred his house to her, or a brother who physically threatened his siblings trying to visit with their very vulnerable mom.

Then we decide on a course of action. Undue influence challenges, financial elder abuse cases, will contests, and trust disputes are subject to a not-always-clear and sometimes seemingly contradictory body of common, statutory and case law. New and even experienced practitioners are sometimes amazed by the murkiness of an estate challenge. Such murkiness is best clarified with the benefit of experience, which helps to direct a course of action. We have litigated many house cases throughout California. Techniques and courses of action are similar whether the fight is over a San Francisco Victorian, a rural ranch house, beachfront condo, a mid-century tract home or an urban mansion.

Hackard Law's final phase of any house related-estate case is action. Action is first dependent upon the attorney-client relationship. A tentative plan is put in place, and the first acts of challenge are made. A good plan is often subject to time and circumstances. As new facts are uncovered and new circumstances arise, an effective litigator reorients, makes new decisions and acts to protect his client.

We started with the observation that house fights are a common estate and trust battleground. Whether the house at stake is in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles or Sacramento, we work hard to fulfill our commitment to our clients to respect them, understand their hopes and their fears and use our great team to fight passionately for their interests. We love what we do.

If you have an estate house fight looming, call us at 916-313-3030. We look forward to speaking with you.

House Fights & Estate Law from Hackard Law on Vimeo.

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