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California Disputed Trusts & Estates | Safecrackers

Estate Trust Theft Safe.jpg

Image Credit: MGM

It's said that safecracking is "a matter of having the right tools, the right skills and plenty of patience."[1] Ken Doyle, a skilled safecracker, remarks that safecracking "is about solving problems and overcoming challenges. That's the fun part. There are basic skills and advanced skills. Expensive, burglary-resistant safes require advanced skills."[2] In estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation, we encounter a good number of real or suspected safecrackers - maybe not exercising their craft in the conventional sense - but still fitting the definition of safecrackers - "one that breaks open safes to steal."[3]

A recent American Express survey of 1,820 adults found that some 29% of Americans say that they keep at least some savings in cash and most said that they are hiding it in a secret location.[4] Given this trend and the common presence of floor, freestanding and wall safes in homes, it doesn't take much imagination to see how estate funds thought to be secure disappear soon before or shortly after a decedent's passing.

So how do we see this played out? The elderly owner of the safe and its contents is very ill. One or more of those around her know that she keeps valuables and a good amount of cash in her garage safe. While no one other than her knows the safe combination, those close to her know that she keeps the combination in her right hand desk drawer. The elder is ill and in the hospital. Family members and friends gather around her. The elder's home is generally open to visitors and friends. Different people do errands that involve items in the house. The elder passes away. Those whom the elder chose to administer her estate or trust inventory the home and its contents - including the safe.

The safe is opened. It is empty except for a few miscellaneous legal papers. Those close to the decedent are shocked. Then stories become to come out. The decedent's (you name it - brother, sister, grandson, banker or accountant) was known to have a particular interest in the safe. He/she talked about how much money was in there. He/she was alone in the house while others were at the hospital.

If there was a surveillance system in place, the local burglar is identified - if not (and more likely there is no system), the identification of the burglar is conjecture - and is difficult to prove. Stealing from the dead is still stealing, and stealing from the dead is more common that it should be. This is just another way that rightful heirs and beneficiaries lose their rightful inheritance.

Hackard Law represents heirs and wronged beneficiaries in California's major urban areas, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Santa Clara. We're happy to talk to you about your case - call us at 916 313-3030.

California Disputed Trusts & Estates | Safecrackers from Hackard Law on Vimeo.


[1] https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/security/safecracking

[2] https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/ken-doyle-safecracker

[3] Webster's Third International Dictionary (Springfield: G. and C. Merriam Co., 1961)

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/29/under-a-mattress-in-the-freezer-why-so-many-are-hiding-cash.html

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