People with probate, estate and trust disputes often ask us to discuss how a contingency fee arrangement might work in their cases.
I first note that California has both statutory and ethical rules that govern attorney-client fee arrangements. All of our attorney-client fee agreements must conform to these statutory and ethical requirements.
The nature of a contingency fee is that the client pays fees to a lawyer only if the lawyer handles the case successfully. This arrangement only works where money or valuable assets are being claimed.
In an estate-related contingency fee arrangement, the attorney agrees to accept a fixed percentage (often 40%) of the total recovery. If the case is won or resolved, the lawyer’s fee comes out o[...]
Ronald Reagan, when asked about his strategy against the Soviet Union in the Cold War answered simply: “We win, they lose.”
The simplicity of this strategy struck the talking heads of the time as unsophisticated – even childish. Looking back at its brilliance, we see how it set a tone – a focal point – a direction for all to follow. The same simple principle holds true for litigation in estate & trust matters.
Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” When it comes to estate, trust and probate litigation, attitude does make a big difference. Over my forty years of practice, I’ve seen lawyers who consistently expected to win – and their work, perseverance and creativity allo[...]
Litigated estate cases run hot. They are like hard fought name-calling political campaigns. Allegations and counter-allegations abound. Much that is said in the heat of the moment is later softened or withdrawn altogether.
This is not about the heat of the moment. It is not about estate differences, however cantankerous, between personal administrators, executors, trustees, heirs, beneficiaries or estate creditors. It is about out-and-out theft from an estate.
We handle a good deal of estate litigation. I’m happy to report that estate embezzlement is rare but disheartened to report that it still exists. When estate theft is discovered, there is near universal surprise and consternation. How could this happen? Well it does happen –[...]
Today, just six days after the death of Prince, a number of news outlets report that Prince’s sister is filing legal documents requesting that she be appointed the special administrator of her brother’s estate. What does this really mean?
If Prince died without a Will then his assets that are not otherwise disposed will pass by way of Minnesota’s laws on intestate succession. Since Prince did not have a child, spouse or surviving parents Prince’s estate will be divided between his surviving siblings.
News stories suggest that Prince had sophisticated legal and financial advisors over his professional life span. Given this level of advice, it is extremely unlikely that Prince did not have a Trust that held or would hold his ass[...]
There are a variety of creditors that seek to enforce money judgments against California trust beneficiaries (beneficiaries who are also judgment debtors). California has a number of laws that identify what limits, if any, apply to the enforcement of these judgments.
California’s counties generally have a Department of Child Support Services. The department’s Mission Statement often defines the general goal for such departments. As an example:
“The mission of the Santa Clara County Department of Child Support Services is to promote the well-being of children and the self-sufficiency of families by delivering effective child support services to help meet the financial and medical needs of children.”
These departments make ev[...]
I suppose that there are times in any job or profession when we struggle with our purpose, our import, our position in the life of the community that we live and serve. A way to deal with this struggle is to look at the world around us – to look and believe that the people we meet – the people that seek us out for our advice and counsel – are important gifts in our lives. These people share the problems facing them in everyday life and seek our advice and counsel. I always feel particularly graced when called upon to assist elders who need protection and a remedy for wrongdoing. This wrongdoing often involves the abuse of a power of attorney granted by the elder to someone close to him or her – often even a family member.
Hackard Law regularly assists trustees and beneficiaries in disputes where breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duties are alleged against a trustee or co-trustee by a trust beneficiary.
The question that is often asked concerns what statutory remedies for a trustee or co-trustee’s breach of trust apply in California probate courts? The following statute applies whether the case is in Sacramento County Probate Court, El Dorado County Probate Court, Placer County Probate Court, and Alameda County Probate Court or in any of the other 54 counties in California.
Probate Code Section 16420. (a) If a trustee commits a breach of trust, or threatens to commit a breach of trust, a beneficiary or cotrustee of the trust may commence a proce[...]
Over years of litigating probate, trust and estate battles, our clients frequently ask the question: Do many families go through estate battles like the one we are experiencing?
What first comes to our mind, as a response to the inquiry is Leo Tolstoy’s observation from Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Estate litigation battles, often outgrowths of unhappy families, have their own distinctive troubles. That said, the more estate battles we see, the more certain prevalent patterns become evident.
We represent people who challenge the wrongdoing of others in estate-related matters. Familiar grounds of challenge often arise from undue influence and financial elder abuse a[...]