There is an African saying that "If the lion does not tell his story, the hunter will." It doesn't take long as an estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigator for Los Angeles clients to see that estate wrongdoers peddle similar stories to justify their actions. And, if these fanciful stories are not challenged the stories won't be refuted. So how do estate or trust asset hunters engaged in wrongdoing tell their stories? They usually sound something like this:
"My sister couldn't give a hoot about our dad. Our mom died over ten years ago and I've been the one to take care of dad for the last five years. It's lucky that I don't have a job, because if I did I wouldn't have been able to help him. He wanted me to live with him and his mind was clear as a bell. He might forget something once in a while, but I can tell you that he knew what he wanted. He didn't want to talk to my sister, so I cut her off from the phone, and whenever she did see him, I stayed with him so she wouldn't upset him or take his money. Dad wanted me to stay in the house and to have money to live on. So we put his money in joint accounts for us because he trusted me that I would take care of the bills. He gave me the house, and he didn't want my sister or her delinquent kids to have anything. My sister wouldn't even visit him or drive the 300 miles from San Jose to LA to be with him."
OK - does this story sound at all familiar? I hear lots of stories, so I must say I've heard different versions of this one dozens of times.
Now if the lion doesn't tell her story, the hunter's story of care and heroics will prevail. And the results of the hunter's story - the sister is cut out of the will or trust and the brother takes everything.
We represent the lion far more than the hunter. And what is the lion's common story?
"My brother hasn't worked in 20 years. I live in San Jose with my three children. We moved to San Jose over 20 years ago because of my husband's job. My parents continued to live in LA. We regularly visited my parents, and I spoke with my mom and my dad at least three or so days a week by telephone. When my mom died, I asked my dad to come live with us. He was so lonely, and I knew that we could care for him. He thought about it, but he didn't want to leave his home and friends in LA. He also felt responsible for my brother. My brother is an alcoholic, and my dad and my mom when she was alive had to bail him out of many problems. My dad began to get dementia about five years ago. He couldn't remember some simple things like the names of my children or the street names around his house. When I visited him, he would sometimes think that I was his sister or a neighbor. We were able to visit him about 2 or 3 times a year over the last five years. A couple of years ago I found that whenever I tried to call my dad, my brother picked up the phone and said that my dad was sleeping. This later evolved into my brother telling me that my dad didn't want to talk with me. I drove down to LA and was able to meet with my dad a few times over the last year, but my brother wouldn't leave the room, and he said in front of my dad that my dad didn't want to give me any money. I wasn't there to ask for money. We do fine.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from my dad's neighbor expressing condolences over my dad's death. I didn't even know that dad died. This call came 3 days after my dad's death. I called my brother and he said that he was too busy to call me. My brother planned the funeral - I was in shock - and I wasn't even mentioned in dad's obituary. My brother is driving a new car, just returned from a trip to Las Vegas, and he won't let me into the house to secure some of our family mementos. I just got a copy of a trust that was prepared two months ago, and I've been cut out of the will and trust - everything goes to my brother. I know that my dad hasn't been able to drive for nearly five years, and he is nearly blind. I'm wondering how he ever made this trust."
Now we're back to reality. Sister calls Hackard Law, and we're engaged to fight the will and trust on undue influence grounds and to file a civil complaint against brother seeking a jury trial and damages for elder financial abuse.
The lion's story will be told, and we'll help to tell it.
Hackard Law represents clients in California's major urban areas in estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. So whether you are in Los Angeles, San Jose, Alameda, or Sacramento and have a will, trust, probate, or elder financial abuse case and want to talk about it, give us a call us at (313) 357-5200. We want you to tell your story.