Dysfunctional families seem part and parcel of probate, estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. There's no getting around it. Marks of such dysfunction include the assignment of blame, threats of exile or abandonment, dominant and subservient relationships, grudges, disloyalty, winner/loser approaches to conflict and fear of loss. Family members with active addictions - alcoholics and drug (legal or illegal) addicts are common participants in the drama endemic to estate and trust lawsuits.
So what should you expect when a trustee, executor, heir, beneficiary or elder financial abuser has a destructive addiction? You can start by assuming that the addict is in denial over his or her addiction issues and wrongdoing stemming from the addiction. A cloud of rationalization surrounds the addict - chaos, unpredictable behavior, and bad conduct are explained away as the fault of others.
Given Hackard Law's focus on estate and elder financial abuse litigation, our practice is like a classroom providing insights into the effects of substance abuse on families. Familiar patterns involve an heir or beneficiary who is under-employed, not employed, or with psychological problems that prevent meaningful income and employment. These dysfunctional individuals can't control certain impulses like lying, drug dependency, or anger issues. Whether the individuals have been disinherited or a part of a scheme to disinherit siblings, bad behavior abounds.
How do we deal with alcohol and drugs abusers in estate litigation? This is an area where there is no magic bullet. Trustees and executors with substance abuse problems can be expected to be irresponsible. Poor accounting, little financial transparency and delays are common. It is often evident that fiduciary duties have been breached. When appropriate we petition to remove these irresponsible fiduciaries and replace them with a responsible successor fiduciary. We often nominate fiduciaries licensed by the State of California. Once a bad trustee or an executor has been removed, we can force an accounting and follow up with appropriate remedies for wrongdoing.
While we cannot reveal attorney-client confidences, we can reveal patterns that seem pervasive when addicted individuals are part of an estate litigation fight. The addict uses manipulation to exert undue influence on a vulnerable parent. A parent's assets often end up in the possession of the abuser before a parent's death. Just as often, a parent's estate plan is changed to benefit the abuser - many times to the absolute exclusion of the abuser's siblings.
When abused beneficiaries contact us for representation in estate and trust cases involving alcoholics and drug addicts, we can share that we have a lot of experience in the area. Our experience provides insights and potential avenues to effective remedies. That said, these are not easy cases. Too many times the horse is out of the barn by the time that we get contacted. If you would like to talk about how we might help you protect your inheritance or secure that which has been wrongfully taken away, call us at Hackard Law: 916-313-3030. We represent clients throughout California, from Sacramento and Los Angeles to San Jose and the Bay Area, and we're happy to speak with you.
Alcoholics and Drug Addicts | Tinder for Trust Beneficiary Fights from Hackard Law on Vimeo. Video Credit: Orange County, Paramount Pictures.