Respect for elders is a basic foundation of many cultures and religions. Its neglect or absence is traumatic and disheartening to both societies and families.
No doubt, aging brains bring many challenges to elders, their families, and caregivers.
Responding to the challenges can be awkward. Functional decline, dementia, and depression can make communication difficult. They can also make abuse, neglect and financial exploitation more likely.
I share these thoughts from experience in representing elders and their families who’ve suffered financial elder abuse. Sometimes it’s too late for us to do something about it. Sometimes we catch it just in time.
Whether the wrongful act is done, in process, or not yet started, we need to[...]
Disinherited Alameda County estate & trust heirs and beneficiaries suffer most when the asset taken is the family home.
Alameda County owner-occupied homes are valuable – now with a median price of over $875,000.00. They’re a natural target for estate & trust wrongdoers.
And, there’s lots of them – over 325,000 owner-occupied houses in the county. So, when houses are taken from an elder by undue influence or fraud, the stakes are high.
Questioned transfers are not limited to those made while the elder is alive. Finding evidence of the transfers may occur while the elder is still living. But more often than not, the illicit transfers are detected after the elder’s death.
Such transfers might be revealed in a tit[...]
I’m not the story here. The story is about American families - and, their homes. Ben Harper wrote,
“A house is a home
even when we’ve up and gone
even when you’re there alone
a house is a home.”
The feeling for home runs deep. Family home memories are passed on to us. I’m a custodian of memory for several of my family’s homes. I’ve visited my great grandmother’s Irish home – a home she departed when only 15 to sail for America. We had cake and an Irish whiskey at the nearby home where her mother, my great-great grandmother, died.
My father took me to his boyhood Wyoming home. He pointed to the window where a lightning bolt once struck in a prairie thunderstorm. He showed me the room where his grandfather sl[...]
We invest elder caregivers with a remarkable amount of power. With power comes responsibility.
So, it’s troubling, even tragic, when this responsibility is abused. And, elder abuse, including elder financial abuse, is magnified when marriage is used for financial exploitation. I’ll share a couple stories - stories drawn from real cases – but changed in part to preserve privacy.
So, let’s start with Roger, an 82-year-old retired teacher. Roger was single for 81 years. Roger’s closest family members are his two sisters, Mary and Molly. They are named as equal beneficiaries in Roger’s 2014 trust.
A few years later, 2016, Roger was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Roger’s failing memory, impaired mobility, and[...]
Trust litigation is about mending unfinished business. And, wronged beneficiaries are often the victims of the unfinished business.
Trustees have a duty to direct “the trust solely in the interest of the beneficiaries.” Trustees who shirk this duty invite legal action from harmed beneficiaries.
When trustees fail to respond to grievances, lawsuits ensue. And, lacking timely resolution, family assets can melt away in endless disputes. This is not the goal of advocacy.
In the words of Sun Tzu: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Trust & estate litigators should understand this. Trust lawsuits, at their best, are about tying up loose ends.
These loose ends stem from a variety of trustee failures, among them[...]
Should a paid caregiver inherit 4 million dollars? This story starts off normally enough. A caregiver is hired to care for a 94-year-old woman who is nearly blind. So far, so good.
But just five months in, something extraordinary and suspicious happens. The caregiver is named as the elderly woman’s sole beneficiary, trustee, executor, attorney-in-fact and health care agent.
We’ll call the elder Caroline. And, we’ll call the caregiver Lotto, as in a game of chance. You’ll see how Lotto increased her chances for a jackpot, Caroline’s estate.
Caroline’s twenty-year-old trust was changed shortly before her death. The change wiped out Caroline’s long held plans to benefit her life partner, sister and a niece. Caroline had long b[...]
“To my family I leave nothing.” I wince at the words. I represent family members in estate battles. We focus on elder financial abuse, will contests and trust beneficiary abuse cases. And, I hear words like this all the time.
It’s one thing to hear them, another to feel them. My clients feel them. Hurt, devastation, and surprise are just some of the feelings. The quest for justice comes a little later.
Like in this case: I’ll call her Pam. Pam calls me. She shares her mother’s handwritten will. She also shares the story about the will. Sally, Pam’s elderly mother, penned the words in 2016.
Sally was not well. She was forgetful. Pam says her mom’s voice often drifted off in midsentence. And, Sally was isolated. Isolated from[...]
Stories, at their best, should help educate others rather than confuse and hurt them. So, when I tell stories drawn from my own law practice, I make an effort to emphasize the positive. To look for hope – not despair. To provide helpful information.
A valuable lesson from Proverbs 29:18 provides guidance for approaching the problems of the day. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” If we look only at the past and its failures, we learn nothing. We need to look forward, and it helps to be positive
It’s said that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It’s understandable that lawyers who litigate trust and estate quarrels often see lawsuits as the remedy to family estate disputes. Litigation is our hammer. A lawsuit i[...]
Rosa Parks will be forever known as the woman who literally sat down for justice and changed America for the better. Her act of civil disobedience in 1955 on a public bus in Alabama was a key turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, which culminated in a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in which segregation on public buses became unconstitutional.
By the time she died in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks suffered for many years with a progressive case of Alzheimer’s Disease. As I wrote about in my book, Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers and Estate Crimes, cognitive decline is often used by relatives to challenge the validity of wills and trusts, which is exactly what happened in Parks’ case.
The “Mother of the Freedom Movement” ha[...]
Lawyers and clients often use a contingency fee arrangement in trust and estate litigation. The arrangement only works where money and/or other valuable personal or real property is being claimed. The client agrees to the lawyer’s share when the mutual agreement is signed. Arrangements are also made as to what, if any, costs the lawyer will “advance” in the lawsuit.
Expert fees, filing fees, depositions and travel add up. This makes the lawyer quite conscious of costs.
Contingency fees under California law are negotiable. California Business and Professions Code Section 6147 clearly states that such fees are not set by law but are negotiable between the attorney and client. This must be disclosed in writing to the client. The lawy[...]