We invest elder caregivers with a remarkable amount of power. With power comes responsibility.
So, it’s troubling, even tragic, when this responsibility is abused. And, elder abuse, including elder financial abuse, is magnified when marriage is used for financial exploitation. I’ll share a couple stories - stories drawn from real cases – but changed in part to preserve privacy.
So, let’s start with Roger, an 82-year-old retired teacher. Roger was single for 81 years. Roger’s closest family members are his two sisters, Mary and Molly. They are named as equal beneficiaries in Roger’s 2014 trust.
A few years later, 2016, Roger was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Roger’s failing memory, impaired mobility, and[...]
Trust litigation is about mending unfinished business. And, wronged beneficiaries are often the victims of the unfinished business.
Trustees have a duty to direct “the trust solely in the interest of the beneficiaries.” Trustees who shirk this duty invite legal action from harmed beneficiaries.
When trustees fail to respond to grievances, lawsuits ensue. And, lacking timely resolution, family assets can melt away in endless disputes. This is not the goal of advocacy.
In the words of Sun Tzu: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Trust & estate litigators should understand this. Trust lawsuits, at their best, are about tying up loose ends.
These loose ends stem from a variety of trustee failures, among them[...]
Should a paid caregiver inherit 4 million dollars? This story starts off normally enough. A caregiver is hired to care for a 94-year-old woman who is nearly blind. So far, so good.
But just five months in, something extraordinary and suspicious happens. The caregiver is named as the elderly woman’s sole beneficiary, trustee, executor, attorney-in-fact and health care agent.
We’ll call the elder Caroline. And, we’ll call the caregiver Lotto, as in a game of chance. You’ll see how Lotto increased her chances for a jackpot, Caroline’s estate.
Caroline’s twenty-year-old trust was changed shortly before her death. The change wiped out Caroline’s long held plans to benefit her life partner, sister and a niece. Caroline had long b[...]
“To my family I leave nothing.” I wince at the words. I represent family members in estate battles. We focus on elder financial abuse, will contests and trust beneficiary abuse cases. And, I hear words like this all the time.
It’s one thing to hear them, another to feel them. My clients feel them. Hurt, devastation, and surprise are just some of the feelings. The quest for justice comes a little later.
Like in this case: I’ll call her Pam. Pam calls me. She shares her mother’s handwritten will. She also shares the story about the will. Sally, Pam’s elderly mother, penned the words in 2016.
Sally was not well. She was forgetful. Pam says her mom’s voice often drifted off in midsentence. And, Sally was isolated. Isolated from[...]
Trust gone missing – what do I do now? This problem isn’t that rare. An elderly relative passes away, and family members cannot find a trust.
No will, no trust, no plan of estate assets distribution. No designation of estate representative. The state steps in and intestacy rules apply. For many, this is not the preferred outcome.
On the other hand, situations arise where there is strong evidence that a trust exists even if a copy of it cannot be found. If this is the case, what do you do?
Start with looking at ownership documents. Look at title to real property. You may find that the title to your relative’s property is in her trust’s name. Here’s an example:
Your relative’s name is Daisy Flowers. Daisy lived in San Francisc[...]
Stories, at their best, should help educate others rather than confuse and hurt them. So, when I tell stories drawn from my own law practice, I make an effort to emphasize the positive. To look for hope – not despair. To provide helpful information.
A valuable lesson from Proverbs 29:18 provides guidance for approaching the problems of the day. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” If we look only at the past and its failures, we learn nothing. We need to look forward, and it helps to be positive
It’s said that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It’s understandable that lawyers who litigate trust and estate quarrels often see lawsuits as the remedy to family estate disputes. Litigation is our hammer. A lawsuit i[...]
Rosa Parks will be forever known as the woman who literally sat down for justice and changed America for the better. Her act of civil disobedience in 1955 on a public bus in Alabama was a key turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, which culminated in a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in which segregation on public buses became unconstitutional.
By the time she died in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks suffered for many years with a progressive case of Alzheimer’s Disease. As I wrote about in my book, Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers and Estate Crimes, cognitive decline is often used by relatives to challenge the validity of wills and trusts, which is exactly what happened in Parks’ case.
The “Mother of the Freedom Movement” ha[...]
When you’re a beneficiary of a trust or the heir of an estate, you expect fair treatment – that your rights will be respected, and that everyone will receive their distributions according to an ordered plan. That is a reasonable expectation, but wrongdoers can still exploit system failures and hijack trust assets for their own benefit. I’ve seen it happen many times, and I’ve put a stop to it many times on behalf of clients whose beneficiary rights had been violated. These are high-stakes estate disputes, and nowhere are the stakes higher in California than in Santa Clara County.
Areas like Palo Alto, San Jose, Mountain View and Santa Clara are still heavyweights in the housing market. Right now the average home price is $1.26 mill[...]