Prospective clients often ask whether I’ve ever seen an estate or trust dispute like theirs. Case facts and wrongdoers’ actions seem so outrageous that aggrieved family members may think that their case is a “one in a million.” Of course, given the geographic and litigation scope of our practice, most cases don’t feel like “one in a million.”
An estate and trust litigation practice at times feels like an emergency room. While non-emergency physicians have little opportunity to treat high-energy trauma cases endemic to car accident injuries, emergency room physician see such cases with regularity since nearly 10 percent of all injury-related visits to the emergency room are due to vehicle collisions. So when people come to s[...]
It’s 2017. Experts estimate that California’s population is approaching 40 million. Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Alameda, Contra Costa and Sacramento Counties are a very significant part of our state’s annual growth. These are also counties where Hackard Law regularly litigates disputed trust, estate and elder financial abuse cases.
The breadth of our trust litigation practice in our nation’s most populous state provides a vista into what causes trust disputes to evolve into lawsuits. We receive dozens of calls from prospective clients every week. A significant number of these calls involve general trustee misconduct and more specifically trust and asset hiding.
The failure and refusal of a truste[...]
The telephone call can be long or short. The message may be clear at the outset or only parsed out after a series of my seemingly unrelated questions. The caller’s emotions may be controlled or buffeted by a frustrating mix of disbelief and surprise from trustee mistreatment – even theft. The story elements are much the same – the caller is a child of a now-deceased parent who provided for the child in a trust. The trustee may be the child’s sibling, an appointed licensed fiduciary, a bank, or a securities company. Whoever the trustee is – the duty is the same – “The trustee has a duty to administer the trust solely in the interest of the beneficiaries.” In 2000 the United States Supreme Court described this duty:
In any family there should be love, compassion and loyalty. Yet in just about every family there can also be estate fights. The problem with long-hidden family conflicts is that when they surface, it often seems too late for reconciliation. Secrets and untold stories tend to come up on deathbeds and ride in on the aftershocks of loss. From false promises to theft, the real question is not "Can this happen to you?", but rather, "Can you trust those you grew up with?" We all want to, but with trust lawsuits sometimes we learn the hard way that life isn't that simple.
Conflicts over trusts and estates can appear from nowhere; family members might never even realize they were deceived until everything they had expected as a lawful inheritanc[...]
We want the professionals serving us to aspire to and act consistent with the highest ethics and standards of their profession. Doctors should “first do no harm,” lawyers need to be honest with their clients, themselves, courts and juries, and trustees who manage trust assets must be honest and loyal in their administration.
When trustees are not honest and loyal in administering a trust, they can be held liable to the trust for breaching their fiduciary obligations to the trust. California probate courts regularly address such fiduciary breaches in accounting and removal petitions brought by aggrieved beneficiaries against sitting trustees.
So what are some examples of fiduciary breaches? Trustee self-dealing; preparing false documen[...]
Communities across California overwhelmingly support programs to prevent financial elder abuse and to punish those responsible for this offense. California law provides clear civil and criminal remedies to enforce the rule that elder financial abusers must be held accountable for all the harms and losses that they cause. In estate, trust and probate litigation, that means that predators can be made to pay for their wrongdoing in civil court.
Prosecutors enforce criminal elder abuse laws against abusers committing estate theft, embezzlement, forgery or fraud against an elder (a person 65 years and older). The estate and trust litigation attorneys at Hackard Law enforce civil statutes holding elder abusers financially responsible for assis[...]
Our team of attorneys at Hackard Law serves trustees and beneficiaries in trust and probate litigation cases, including accountings, trustee removal and surcharge petitions, elder financial abuse, fraud, concealment and conversion actions in California Probate Courts.
The process of representation is initiated by a preliminary review of our prospective client's case. A part of this review is securing an understanding of the terms of the decedent's trust (including all amendments), identifying the property and cash inflows and outflows from the trust, and scrutinizing end of life inter vivos and testamentary gifts to new friends, suddenly interested family members and/or care custodians.
We are regularly asked to review cases rife with[...]
Estate disputes are ugly – sometimes really ugly. So when trustees, beneficiaries, and heirs step into the fight, good counsel – that is, probate and trust litigation attorneys – should help their clients count the costs. Many times that is easier said than done. Given the complications of estate fights, estimating costs can be an elusive process.
One particular estate fight focused on the decedent’s domicile may become like a runaway train. Fighting estate battles in two or more states can seriously tax a trust, heir, or beneficiary’s bank account. The fight over of a decedent’s home may be protracted and susceptible to inconsistent state rulings. A person may reside in multiple states but only be domiciled in one. A Califor[...]
Hackard Law, a California law firm representing clients in trust, estate and probate litigation, is regularly called upon to enforce a wronged beneficiary’s right to an accounting from an uncommunicative, recalcitrant or duplicitous trustee. While California probate courts will follow the law and order a trustee to provide an accounting, this is only part of what is often necessary to safeguard the beneficiary’s trust interests and to prevent further harm to an innocent beneficiary.
Trustee actions leading to the necessity of filing a petition for a court-ordered accounting often include the trustee’s refusal to make trust distributions. Waiting on an inheritance is a continual source of frustration to estate and trust heirs or ben[...]
If you’re a trust beneficiary in California, you need to know your rights. As a trust beneficiary, you’re entitled to receive a regular distribution from funds designated to you under the rules of the trust. The trustee, the person who is in charge of administering that trust, has a legal duty toward you, the beneficiary. The trustee has the responsibility to inform you of the status of the trust and ensure that you receive your full share of distributions from a trust on time and in the right amount. Above all, a trustee is called to be fair and ethical in managing trust assets.
When a trustee isn’t fair to beneficiaries, that means beneficiaries are being abused. For protection from further abuse and in order to get rightful dist[...]