Yesterday I had the privilege of joining Cyrus Webb on Conversations LIVE, a radio show that is also broadcast on podcast platforms like iTunes and IHeartRadio. Working out of Mississippi, Cyrus enjoys nationwide reach with his program and covers a variety of topics, including media, entertainment, and the arts. A professed bibliophile, Cyrus is a passionate reader, and I'm glad he chose my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, as the main topic of discussion.
In California, a trustee has a significant amount of control over the trust administration process. The trustee has the power to gather the assets of the trust, work with creditors, and distribute the trust assets to the beneficiaries. The trustee also owes the beneficiaries of the trust (and the trust itself) a fiduciary duty to act in their best interests at all times. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and trustees sometimes breach their duties to beneficiaries to the extent that it justifies their removal .
Trusts are an extremely common way for people to transfer assets to others at the ends of their lives, and it is easy to understand why. When a person uses a will to dispose of assets, the estate must go through a process known as probate, which can prove long and complicated, and cost the estate a significant amount of money in fees. On the other hand, using a trust to transfer assets to beneficiaries avoids probate, as the transfer takes place immediately on the occurrence of some specified event.
It's heartwarming that several of America's major online financial media networks have quoted from my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. The latest story comes from TheStreet.com, one of our country's leading online financial websites. Brian O'Connell, a business/finance writer, who regularly covers business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health, internet and technology sectors, wrote an interesting article, "My Stepmother Stole My Inheritance."
I was pleased yesterday to join Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio, part of America's largest Catholic radio network, for a discussion on my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. We covered the basic points of how to safeguard elderly family members from exploitation, a challenge that will only grow in the years ahead as more and more Baby Boomers become senior citizens. That paves the way for the greatest generational transfer of wealth - an estimated $30 trillion - we've ever seen.
When most people think about elder abuse, they tend to picture a scenario in which an older adult suffers physically or emotionally abuse by family members or caregivers. While it is certainly true that this type of abuse takes place on a regular basis, elder abuse can also take the form of financial abuse. Financial elder abuse can in a wide variety of ways and people known or unknown to the victim can perpetrate it. What all cases of financial elder abuse share, however, is the financial exploitation of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
It's fun for me to reflect upon some of the funny things and experiences that I've encountered over the years. My memory of some real-world events only permits to share the essence of the experiences. I've changed identifying details to protect both privacy and attorney client confidences. Given the changes, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I was recently welcomed back as a guest on The Steve Pomeranz Show, hosted by nationally recognized investment advisor Steve Pomeranz. Steve has made his program a fantastic resource for wealth planning, financial literacy, and smart allocation of assets in a volatile economy. It's therefore an honor to return to Steve's show and discuss a serious danger to seniors: elder financial abuse and undue influence.
It's a privilege to have a chapter from my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, featured in The Wall Street Journal's financial newswire MarketWatch. The chapter concerns a phenomenon I've encountered frequently in estate and trust lawsuits: conflicts between stepmothers and the natural children of a decedent over property and assets. The chances of a dispute rise dramatically when a stepmother's vision for the future of a family trust is at odds with what her husband originally intended for his children from his previous marriage.