At Hackard Law, our work is representing clients in estate and probate litigation here in Northern California – from Sacramento to the foothills of Placer and El Dorado, and from the Central Valley to the Bay. I’ve seen a lot in my 40 years as a lawyer – from great victories for clients to a few very dysfunctional situations where basic mistakes led to an unfavorable outcome. Whatever the area of life, it’s best to treat mistakes and failure as a learning opportunity: how can you do better next time? So let’s look at the basic mistakes of estate and probate litigation:
No Plan. The old saying is true here – if you fail to plan you plan to fail. The death of a loved one brings grief and in some cases chaos. Who has the Will? W[...]
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 Much that is said in the heat of the moment is later softened or withdrawn altogether.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 –[...]
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[...]