Home equity in Bay Area houses constitutes the largest share of household wealth. Older people, a large part of owner-occupied units, are more likely to have spouses and dual incomes. And, they simply have had more time to accumulate wealth.
Bay area home values have had some dramatic increases. Home price increase per square foot in 2017 were 11.3% – Alameda County, 14.8% – Contra Costa County, 13.3% – San Francisco City and County and 18.6% for Santa Clara County. These are not small numbers – the median home values are now around $850,000 for Alameda County, $600,000 for Contra Costa County, $1,285,000 for San Francisco City and County and almost $1,400,000 for Santa Clara County.
So how do these extraordinary values influence estate, trust and elder financial abuse fights? Well, given the fact that homes are the most significant part of middle-class families’ wealth, they become the focus of trust or estate asset ownership and distribution disputes.
For the most part, houses are illiquid and can sometimes be a challenge to trust or estate liquidity. This lack of liquidity extends to the payment of attorney’s fees by trust or estate challengers.
Contingency fees may be a possible option when recovery is viable, or when real estate properties can be awarded to the aggrieved beneficiary. In these types of cases, remember that attorney’s fees depend on a favorable outcome. That way if the case doesn’t succeed, the client doesn’t have to pay anything. If the case is successful, fee agreements generally provide that the contingency fee percentage will apply to any award, verdict, judgment, settlement or compromise.
If the recovery is paid out over a period of time, the lawyer and client can work out the present cash value of the stream of income, with the attorney’s fees paid out of the first funds or property received by the client.
Contingency fee agreements can give abused beneficiaries a fighting chance in the courtroom. Not all cases are appropriate for contingency fees, and the arrangement is ultimately dependent on a willing attorney and a willing client. Written fee agreements with proper statutory and ethical disclosures are required.
If you would like to speak with Hackard Law about whether a contingency fee agreement may be possible for your Bay Area probate, trust or estate case, then call us at 916-313-3030. We look forward to speaking with you.