In any family there should be love, compassion and loyalty. Yet in just about every family there can also be estate fights. The problem with long-hidden family conflicts is that when they surface, it often seems too late for reconciliation. Secrets and untold stories tend to come up on deathbeds and ride in on the aftershocks of loss. From false promises to theft, the real question is not "Can this happen to you?", but rather, "Can you trust those you grew up with?" We all want to, but sometimes we learn the hard way that life isn't that simple.
Conflicts over trusts and estates can appear from nowhere; family members might never even realize they were deceived until everything they had expected as a lawful inheritance was taken from them. As estate litigation attorneys, we've seen previously-unknown relatives and "friends" come out of the woodwork to claim a deceased parent's house, cash or other assets. At times bad actors even attempt to hide will or trust documents. Wealth within reach creates a temptation for those willing to manipulate, lie, cheat or steal. Such episodes of wrongdoing form the untold stories of estate and trust disputes within families.
Undue influence is a pivotal factor in many estate cases. Imagine someone with debilitating issues such as drugs or alcohol taking control of an estate. We've represented many clients whose addict siblings isolated sick or ailing parents from all communication with the outside world. These bad-faith siblings hijack financial accounts and abuse persuading a frail relative to change his or her will in their favor (undue influence) and threaten to call the police if the other children object to this injustice. Situations such as these become a regular occurrence when greed drives a wrongdoer's behavior.
In other instances the story comes not from the family, but from a stranger entrusted with the care of a family member. The position of caregiver can sometimes give false reassurances of security. An elderly mother, for example, may have a safe full of assets or heirlooms to pass on, but when she passes away and the time comes for an estate accounting, her caretaker could skip town along with the family's rightful money and property.
These are the untold stories that lie behind the closed doors and drawn curtains of family estate disputes. Plenty of families cannot imagine the theft of an heirloom or that their grandmother's savings would be willed over to an estranged cousin. But when it happens to you, you'll need a professional who can navigate complexities of estate, probate and trust litigation - an estate lawyer who will safeguard your future. If you believe that fraud or estate theft has been committed against your family, make sure you contact an experienced attorney who will protect your interests and those of your loved ones. Call us at Hackard Law today: 916-313-3030.