Hello, I'm Mike Hackard. I lead Hackard Law, a law firm that focuses on significant estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation in California. I'm the author of the new book Alzheimer's, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes, now available on Amazon.
I'm convinced and studies show that crimes against elders are increasing and are not always prosecuted. The FBI reports that bank robbers steal an average of $7,500 for every crime they commit. Ironically, sums taken from heirs and beneficiaries by estate wrongdoers are often much larger, sometimes in the millions of dollars. Unfortunately, our legal system doesn't place that high of a priority on cases of elder financial abuse and undue influence. That's why victims and their families will seek out an experienced attorney who knows civil litigation and how to make the wrongdoer pay.
What are the important questions I ask when considering a potential estate or trust litigation case?
- Is the case large enough for us to justify representation? Unlike other firms, mine frequently works on the basis of contingency fees, which means we absorb enormous costs upfront.
- Does the conduct of the wrongdoer constitute elder financial abuse under California law? If so, we have a civil case in which the defendant can't burn trust assets to defend themselves. Civil cases have a lower burden of proof - the "more likely than not" standard.
- Finally, in a civil case we can request a jury trial. 12 reasonable fellow-citizens with common sense stand a pretty good chance of spotting wrongdoing in an estate.
That said, litigation is tough, and costs escalate quickly. And that's exactly why a case has to make economic sense for both the client and the attorney. It's not always a pure dollars and cents decision, but smaller estate cases will typically be taken on by younger attorneys who need the experience more than the billable hours.
The good news is that if someone does have a case of lost inheritance or disinheritance involving diminished mental capacity or cognitive decline, and if the amount at stake can cover contingency fees, there is a reasonable chance of recovery and success.
If you would like a free digital copy of Alzheimer's, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes, email us at [email protected] I'm happy to share this book on a very important topic.