We handle substantial trust, estate, probate and elder financial abuse litigation cases in California’s largest cities and counties. Frequent venues include Sacramento, Los Angeles and the major Bay Area Counties in between – including San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
While every case is different, there are often some common acts of fraud in trust, estate or probate litigation. I’ll talk about some of my own observations of these common acts of fraud in trust and probate disputes. Let’s start with the difference between actual and constructive fraud.
California law defines actual fraud as consisting “in any of the following acts, committed by a party to the contract, or with his connivance, with intent[...]
Tom Petty was an American original, a singer, a songwriter, an actor, and an instrumentalist who formed the iconic group Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976. By the time of his death in 2017 at age 66 from of an accidental drug overdose, his music catalog was worth in the tens of millions.
Like many estates of successful rock ‘n roll musicians, Petty left behind an extended family: children from a first marriage, two daughters named Adria and Annakim, and a widowed stepmother named Dana.
My recent book, Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes, highlights some of the persistent issues between children of first marriages and widowed stepmothers.
Even in best case scenarios, widowed stepmothers and their stepchild[...]
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 [...]
In May 1968, I attend a Doors concert at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds. It is the third time I see The Doors. Jim Morrison is going downhill. Between songs he sites on the Santa Clara stage with a Jack Daniel’s bottle by his side.
Unfortunately, Morrison’s self-destructive behavior led to a premature death three years later at the age of 27 from what may have been a heroin overdose. Even today, there is no definitive cause of death listed for him – some believe it could have been congestive heart failure or a heart attack.
Either way, when he died, his net worth was a relatively modest $400,000. He was unmarried but had a common law wife named Pamela Courson, and in his will, he left everything to her.
As was typical of rock st[...]
We like what we do – we represent clients in California estate, trust and financial elder abuse litigation. Of course, like in anything, we like some aspects of what we do more than others. No one likes to hear complaining.
So, this isn’t a complaint. It’s a little insight into some aspects we like less than others. We’ll share what is sometimes the worst part of the litigation that we do. It’s about some common case motivators. It’s about how we lawyers process what we hear.
Let’s start with the simple term - “it’s the principle of the thing.” I’ve said this myself – plenty of times. But when it gets to litigation, “the principle of the thing” can fade as quickly as a declining bank account. Few would argue wi[...]
Even today, almost 12 years after she died, you only have to say the words “Queen of Mean” to know we’re talking about the late billionaire heiress, Leona Helmsley.
She was known to the public for her excessive thriftiness and unwillingness to pay contractors, but she is also remembered for having served 19 months in prison for tax evasion. Ironically, while she was a social pariah and much vilified in the press, most people don’t recall that she had a soft spot for animals. Indeed, when she died in 2007 at the age of 87, she left a $12 million trust fund to her Maltese dog named Trouble. Little did she know that Trouble’s bequest would open her estate up to even more trouble.
When people make unusual bequests, such as leavi[...]
This is Mike Hackard from Hackard Law. We are a California Law firm that focuses on representing heirs and beneficiaries in California estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation.
Celebrities are not immune when it comes to estate fights - John Lennon, the world-famous musician and member of The Beatles, is a classic example. John left the Beatles, and he also left his first marriage and his son from the marriage, Julian Lennon. It’s said that Paul McCartney wrote “Hey Jude” in 1968 to cheer up Julian, then five, during his parents’ divorce. McCartney described it in part as a message of “I know you’re not happy, but it’ll be OK.”
Just 12 years later, John Lennon was gunned down, and Lennon’s family members we[...]
Hackard Law is a Northern California-based law firm that focuses on probate, estates & trusts litigation. I’m the one who is ultimately responsible for taking a new case. It’s an interesting and an imperfect process.
We are not magicians – we know that we can’t magically turn a fact pattern into a viable legal case. Fact patterns are only part of the picture – if we delve deeper, they’re stories of real family traumas and strained personal relationships.
Being spurned by a parent – even a parent with Alzheimer’s - or taken advantage of by a stepparent or sibling is not something generally shrugged off. When I speak with new people, I can often hear the hurt in their voices.
I know that I need to know more than the emo[...]
Sibling battles have been immortalized in fact, fiction, film – and unfortunately, in thousands of court dockets. It’s said that when the second child shows up on the family scene that the classic tug of war for parental attention begins. More siblings – more tug-of-wars, more shifting alliances and more life stories.
Siblings have a unique perspective of family members’ personalities – a perspective that at times may be frozen in adolescence and emotions that cannot be quelled even with adulthood. Siblings live their inextricably linked lives from birth to death. Siblings’ relationships at their best are grounded in a sense of humor, love, respect and forgiveness and at their worst unremitting resentment.
It’s an unfortunat[...]
At times I think that we at Hackard Law have a bird’s-eye view of California trust litigation. Our perspective is gained from both the cases that we take and don’t take.
Our communications with clients and potential clients are, of course, privileged. That said, given our law firm’s high volume of calls and emails regarding trusts, estates and elder financial abuse we have a take on what issues are commonplace and what issues are rare.
A commonplace California trust issue is the failure of a trustee administering a decedent’s trust to sell the family home and distribute the proceeds to the named beneficiaries. This comes about for a variety of reasons – among them sheer procrastination, confusion as to duties, mistaken trust int[...]