I’m Mike Hackard of Hackard Law. We’ve shared over 500 blog posts and YouTube videos with people interested in trust, estate, probate and elder financial abuse issues. Many examples referenced in our blogs are drawn from real life experience. We change specifics to protect confidentiality. We are committed to continuing to share what we know.
I’m often motivated by clients’ circumstances that I find particularly compelling – sometimes upsetting. It’s not unusual for clients to express an overwhelming sense of frustration, humiliation and abandonment when a trustee administering the trust set up by a loved one, often a father or a mother of the beneficiary, ignores the beneficiary’s needs. Sometimes it looks like the trustee t[...]
The power of trustees should not be underestimated. It is said that power can be intoxicating. Some grow with its possibilities and some swell with pride and arrogance. Those who swell may act like potentates whose power can be exercised arbitrarily and without explanation. When queried for reasoning behind a decision, their answer might mimic a parent’s answer to a young child’s question – “Because I said so!” While this might end a parent-child discussion, it is offensive to an adult trust beneficiary whose parent invested love, thought, time and money in establishing a trust for the benefit of her children, not a trustee.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church captures the difference between a child and adult: “When I was [...]
I enjoy reading The Wall Street Journal’s book reviews. They’re thoughtful, well written and a potential source of inspiration. The Journal’s article titled “’Life Finds a Way’ and ‘Good Enough’ Review: The Drive to Thrive” is a ready source of inspiration.
The article’s essential point is that “Evolution is a process of solving real-world problems, not achieving abstract ideals. Some solutions are just good enough.” So, how could I be inspired by this?
For whatever reason I began to reflect upon my journey in leading a litigation firm focused on estate, trust and elder financial abuse. This might sound strange but the article’s point that we “are the products of an evolutionary path filled with twists and turn[...]
The outlook is dreadful. You can see what’s happening. You know that there is an aftermath to your parent’s isolation from family members.
Now, with your parent’s passing, the successor trustee of your parent’s trust is silent. You receive no call backs. Your emails are unanswered. A sibling or caregiver is now in charge - in charge of a trust that only benefits her.
You and your siblings have been cut out. Even in the dark, you now know where you are. You know what you’re going to do. You also know what you’re not going to do – you’re not going to sit back.
You’ve never been through this before. You’re seeking counsel.
I’ve been counsel to many who have suffered similar impacts. My book shares stories about the me[...]
If you look through a few of our videos, you’ll see that I feel strongly about a number of issues.
One of these issues is trustee over-compensation. In particular, over-compensation of abusive trustees who have the duty to manage the assets of a trust fund.
The three key parties to the creation and management of a trust fund are the “grantor(sets up a trust and populates it with their assets), beneficiary (person chosen to receive the trust fund assets), and trustee (charged with managing the assets in the trust).” The overriding purpose of a trust agreement is to define how assets will be managed and held for the benefit of another person. This is an important concept.
The trust is set up to benefit another person, a beneficiary, [...]
Imagine you’re the beneficiary of your mother’s trust. You live in Los Angeles. You are the only child. Your mother also lives in Los Angeles.
Your father’s community and separate property went to your mother at his 2004 death. Your mother is the grantor, that is, the maker of a revocable trust titled “Mother’s 2012 Revocable Trust.” Mother is named the sole Trustee of her Trust.
Mother funds her Trust with $3 million in securities at its formation. The Trust allows Mother as Trustee to withdraw all or any part of the trust assets during her lifetime. Mother’s Trust provides that the Trustee shall pay the entire net income of the Trust quarter-annually to her, the Grantor.
The Trustee is also authorized to pay all or any pa[...]
“Trust fund babies” is a term that easily evokes mental images of young people unburdened by work or other responsibilities and backed by a secure income. The term itself is somewhat disparaging. It paints with a broad brush.
Still, the term is a good lead-in to a discussion of the particular challenges that trust fund babies may face in estate and trust disputes. A “trust fund baby” is a beneficiary whose parents, grandparents, or other relatives have placed substantial assets in a trust fund for his or her benefit during the beneficiary’s lifetime. While income from the assets is part and parcel of the trust process the calculated distribution of the income can be arbitrary.
This leads to some problems, as does the allowan[...]
Determining actual ownership of bank accounts after the death of a loved one can be challenging. There can be real differences in what the parties to the accounts, the beneficiaries of a trust, and the heirs of an estate believe and what they want. It is difficult at times to find a blueprint in which to operate.
A 2017 California Court of Appeal decision (Higgins v. Higgins) helps to identify some basic guideposts for ownership determination. The case arose from a lawsuit brought by the personal representative of an estate against a wife who agreed to hold funds in trust for her husband’s stepmother. After her husband’s death she changed the form of the accounts and used the funds for her own purposes. The Appellate Court concluded [...]
Imagine: Your mother is an 86-year-old widow. Your father passed away ten years ago. You have three siblings – two brothers and a sister. You’re all now in your 50s.
Your mother lives in the San Mateo family home. You live in Orinda. Your two brothers live in Santa Clara County. Your sister, age 56, lives with your mother.
You and your brothers are college graduates. You’re a psychologist. One brother is a city planner and the other a rocket engineer. Your sister who lives with your mother does not have a job. She has been on some type of disability since her mid-40s. She’s worked about one year total since she finished high school.
She never went to college. In one way or another, she has lived off your parents her entire [...]
California heirs and beneficiaries expect that trustees, estate representatives and executors will act as good and prudent fiduciaries. When these fiduciaries fail and take money belonging to trust beneficiaries, they may be subject to civil and even criminal penalties.
There are several cases in point. A Sacramento woman was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2018 for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering (U.S. v. Stewart-Cabrera, United States District Court, E.D. California, Case No. 2:18-CR-0085 KJM). The woman, a professional fiduciary, served as the trustee of a trust that owned Sacramento property. The U.S. Attorney’s news release indicates that Loretta Darlene Stewart-Cabrera, the trustee, carried out a scheme in whi[...]