Did your interest in a trust evaporate because of the actions of a caregiver who unduly influenced your parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle? It happens and, in our experience, it happens with some frequency. And, once challenged, it is also our experience that a wrongdoing caregiver treats an elder’s natural heirs with irritation and contempt.
When it comes to dogs, it’s called “possession aggression.” This syndrome is a description of a dog’s aggressive behavior toward people or other animals that approach valued objects.
Wrongdoing caregivers certainly end up acquiring valuable objects, whether it’s real or personal property transfers before an elder dies or will, trust or nonprobate transfers (like joint bank accounts) that are effective upon an elder’s death. We’ve litigated and are currently litigating many caregiver transfer cases. These cases have their own particularities.
The object of the wrongdoing is often the elder’s house. When the wrongdoing occurs in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, the house is often worth at least a million dollars. That certainly is a “valued object” and the wrongdoer will exhibit “possession aggression.” How is this done?
Estates and trusts that are subject to wrongdoing have removed liquid assets from rightful beneficiaries and placed them in the hands of wrongdoers. The wrongdoers can then pay their attorneys for vigorous and protracted defenses against any legal challenges that wronged beneficiaries and heirs might mount. This is the primary reason that wronged beneficiaries and heirs seek out California litigation counsel who will consider and often take on attorney-client contingency fee arrangements.
Given the immense costs of litigation, it is difficult for someone who has been wrongfully excluded from an estate to challenge a wrongdoer who is funded by assets that should belong to the victim. It’s that simple.
California has both statutory and ethical rules that govern attorney-client fee arrangements.
All Hackard Law attorney-client fee agreements must conform to these statutory and ethical requirements. Contingency fees are arrangements where the client pays fees to a lawyer only if the lawyer handles the case successfully. This arrangement only works economically where money or valuable assets are being claimed.
In trust and estate related contingency fee arrangements, 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 of the recovery. If the case is lost, neither the client nor the lawyer get any money, and the client will not be required to pay the lawyer for the work that was done on the case.
Costs are an important part of the attorney-client fee arrangement. Many times clients will advance costs, like filing fees, deposition fees and expert fees. This is a matter of contract between the attorney and client.
The obstacles of retaining an attorney to recover inheritance or trust beneficiary assets can be overwhelming to a client. Contingency fees may be an efficient and effective step to overcoming these obstacles and allow for the civil prosecution of trusts and will contests.
Over the last few years we have litigated trust and estate cases in most of California’s largest urban counties, including Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, San Diego and Contra Costa counties. We have done many of these cases on a contingency fee basis.
These types of fee agreements have to be duly considered by both the lawyer and the client. They don’t fit every situation – the economics and reasonable likelihood of success play a major role.
Hackard Law takes significant cases where we think that we can make a significant difference and there is a wrongdoer who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing. If you would like to speak with us about your case, call us at 916 313-3030.