Heirs and beneficiaries of estates often have legitimate differences. When such differences arise and become disputes, efforts toward resolution - whether informal or by mediation - can be productive as well as time and money saving. There are occasions when efforts toward resolution seem fruitless. This may be especially true when a well-funded adversary seeks unyielding advantage over a less well-financed or even impoverished challenger.
The words of Scripture here both inform and resonate: "Don't take advantage of the poor just because you can; don't take advantage of those who stand helpless in court. The Lord will argue their case for them and threatened the life of anyone who threatens theirs." (Proverbs 22:22-23) How does this apply to those who practice law - to those who go to court?
It is both a privilege and responsibility to practice law - a privilege that I have now enjoyed for forty years. A lawyer's responsibilities include the duty to uphold the Constitution, our laws and to help in the cause of the defenseless or the oppressed. Lawyers find purpose and varied opportunities in assisting the defenseless or oppressed. Such activities may be little noticed or more obvious in the coordinated activities of bar associations.
People without the money to fight or assert their rights, possibly faced with the arrogance of a well-funded wrongdoer, can seek legal counsel on a contingency fee basis to litigate a battle that would otherwise be considered hopeless. Not all matters may be prosecuted or defended on a contingency fee basis; both legal constraints and economic limitations influence the utility of such agreements.
Under United States law, a contingent fee is payment for legal services provided where the payment is dependent on a favorable result. Contingent fees are usually calculated as a percentage of the client's net recovery.
We serve clients in trust, estate and probate litigation, from Sacramento to San Francisco and throughout Northern California. It is a practice that at times is an ideal match for the use of contingency fees. Key elements include a client unable to pay hourly fees, an adversary who is often an overconfident trustee or financial elder abuser, and liquid or real estate assets that can be seized or transferred following successful litigation or settlement.
We talk and meet with many prospective clients. While every case is different, common threads still exist. These include strong suspicions of wrongdoing spawned by the isolation of a vulnerable elder, coupled with the guarded secret actions of caretakers. There is often a victim's disillusionment that nothing can be done because the matter is too complex, too far along or any prosecution of wrongdoing cannot be funded. Many times potential clients feel that wrongdoers have stripped them of power and funds, thereby making any quest for justice hopeless.
Now, I don't want to represent that we can right every wrong and accomplish the impossible. What I do want to make clear is that what often seems impossible to the inexperienced is in fact possible. Mechanics fix our cars when this noise or that bump baffles us. Physicians treat us for conditions that we sometimes can't pronounce or really understand. We know that mechanics can't fix everything or doctors cure us of all our ills. Still, we'd rather have their training, experience and wisdom on our side than not.
Our clients with probate litigation cases call us from all over California - whether from Contra Costa or San Diego. They often start the first meeting or telephone conversation with us by warning that "this is really complex" or "this is a big mess." Usually, after listening, we may agree that the matter is a big mess, but not nearly as complex as the client imagines.
There is a body of law and an abundance of solutions available in estate litigation fights. It is our job to know this body of law and to marshal the available remedies to right wrongs.
If you have an estate, trust and probate litigation case that is really complex and a big mess, call us at Hackard Law. We've probably seen and worked on cases like yours, and we're here to protect clients. We can be reached at 916 313-3030.