ABCs of California Trust, Probate & Estate Disputes | 2018
William Shakespeare’s observation that “What’s past is prologue” is a ready reference when we’re thinking about the future. We often see that what has happened until now sets the stage for what will happen in the future. When it comes to California trust, probate and estate litigation the past year – 2017 – is likely a preface to what will take place in 2018.
Hackard Law’s 2017 efforts reflect a period of intense litigation focusing on the protection of elders and/or their beneficiaries against estate and trust wrongdoers. Our firm filed trust or elder financial abuse cases in the probate and civil courts of more than twenty California counties. Our team of lawyers continues to grow in order to handle the influx of cases arising from the growing epidemic of elder financial abuse.
Our efforts are not centered on litigation alone; we’ve also worked to bring attention to the plight of elders stung by abuse. My book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, helps to shine a spotlight on a very significant national problem.
When we look back over the last year we can apply the truth in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s observation that “The Life of the law has not been logic. It has been experience.” While attorney-client privilege and privacy issues prevent me from detailing the particularities of recent litigation, I can briefly generalize the kinds of circumstances and events that generate the need for judicial intervention. The following factors often come into play:
The Aftereffects of Addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction create destruction in all areas of the life of the addicted and his or her loved ones. Such aftereffects in estate and trust litigation involve the use of undue influence by an addicted son or daughter against a vulnerable parent that results in a transfer of assets to the addicted child. These transfers are often the focus of a challenge to late or deathbed amendments to wills or trusts.
Backstabber Baloney. This title may not be appropriate for law reviews, but it often fits the circumstances of elder financial abuse. Given that the abuse is visited upon vulnerable elders, an abuser takes advantage of the vulnerability by bad-mouthing a sibling or siblings, isolating the elder for his or her protection, or convincing the elder that the siblings frozen out by the abuser simply don’t want to visit mom or dad.
Cons, Caretakers and Cancer. Elders can be conned and are often the particular targets of wrongdoers. Crimes against seniors are reprehensible and are a concern for all families. While caretakers can be a great blessing to a family in need, errant caretakers can be a nightmare. Caretaker oversight is critical to looking out for the financial and physical health of seniors. I mention cancer because we’ve litigated a number of cases where trusts were amended either shortly before or during a decedent’s placement into hospice care. In cases like these, it’s usually pretty obvious that undue influence was exerted, as the lawful beneficiaries of estate plans were cut out in favor of the wrongdoer.
Hackard Law is looking forward to 2018. We’ll continue to focus on practice on estate, probate, trust and elder financial abuse disputes in California’s large urban areas, whether that’s Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, Santa Clara, or Orange and Riverside. We’re dedicated to protecting client interests, and you can contact us today at 916-313-3030. We’ll be happy to see how we can best help you.