Conflicts between stepmothers and biological children over estate and trust assets have become a familiar feature of litigation in California superior courts. Only a certain proportion of these disputes make it to the legal arena, but they’re part of a continuing trend that’s worth noticing.
There’s plenty of reasons why you’ll keep hearing about estate fights between stepmothers and biological children, whether in the news or in your own community. To start with, research shows that one in six children in the United States is in a blended family situation. Biological children from a first marriage expect an eventual inheritance, the normal transfer of wealth from one generation to the next – almost a sense of entitlement. When[...]
Walt Disney is one of the most celebrated and successful entrepreneurs of the 20th Century and a man whose vision continues to delight families around the world through his Disney Theme Parks and Movies. Disney himself was a scrappy and colorful animator, film producer, voice actor, and corporate leader who may have become more celebrated and appreciated since his death in 1966 than he was while he was alive.
Despite many setbacks during his career and big gambles on films and theme parks that could easily have gone the wrong way, Disney managed to leave behind a significant fortune, mostly in the form of Walt Disney company stock which some have estimated was worth $100 Million when he died.
Unfortunately for several of Disney’s gr[...]
You know that something is wrong - something is just not right. How do you talk with a trust litigation attorney about trust issues when you know so little?
Maybe you don’t have a copy of the trust. Maybe you were frozen out of communication with your loved one over the last months – maybe years of his life. Maybe you weren’t even told of his death until days – maybe weeks from his passing.
How do you make sense of this? Well – let’s start with the truth that I’m just like you. I’m sure that if you’re a doctor, an electrician, a carpenter or computer programmer that I don’t know a thing about your field. I don’t even know what questions to ask about issues in your profession or career.
I feel a little embarrassed th[...]
Why do disinheritance issues often arise in blended families? Given the high incidence of divorce in the United States, at least half of America’s children live with a biological parent and a stepparent.
Blended families have many challenges, among them: different parenting styles; conflicting emotions and the natural stresses associated with change. Sibling rivalry may spring up between biological children and stepsiblings.
Longevity for Americans over the age of 50 is expected to exceed that of previous generations. There is a female advantage in longevity, and the advantage has widened over the years.
It is close to 7 years in the United States. So, it stands to reason that there will be more widowed stepmothers than widowed stepfat[...]
An unexpectedly large number of people open safe deposit boxes, leave them alone for several years, and forget the box ever existed. According to the Sacramento Bee, the California State Controller’s Office had the contents of more than 138,000 safe deposit boxes under its control in 2017, including more than 75,000 US Savings Bonds worth more than $30 Million. Sometimes banks move, and sometimes box holders move, but the usual way in which boxes get forgotten is when someone dies.
While safe deposit boxes can, and usually do, serve a useful purpose of safeguarding valuables, you should know that they aren’t 100% safe. Take, for example, a 2007 case reported on a Consumer Reports blog. A woman’s aunt showed up at a Bank of America [...]
Estate and trust lawsuits are comparable to a first-response operation after a crime or disaster has occurred. The police arrive to the scene of a crime, firefighters race to a burning house, and estate and trust litigators take legal action in court to stop wrongdoing and recover assets. In the aftermath of any incident, first responders will file an after-action report to determine what caused the emergency situation. In the same way, trust litigation attorneys will assess the risk factors that led to estate disaster.
What we’ve seen in our protection of beneficiaries across California fits into specific patterns of risk. While every story of estate fraud or elder financial abuse is unique, they share common features that raise the t[...]
This is a busy year for estate and trust mediation – the alternative dispute process in which the parties to a lawsuit meet with a neutral third-party, often a retired judge, in an effort to settle the case. Our litigation practice includes California’s largest urban areas and so, not coincidentally, does our presence at mediations. While mediations can be dramatically different, there are some constants – including strong emotions.
It’s the day before mediation. We often meet with or have phone calls with our clients. There are some standard questions from our clients: What should I wear? What time should I be there? Do we have to sit at the same table as my brother, sister or whoever caused the estate dispute? I want you to kno[...]
In most cases of elder financial abuse, we tend to think of the widowed stepmother as a middle-aged woman in her 50’s, or even 60’s, who wages a contentious battle with stepchildren who are usually about the same age. In such instances, children from the first marriage often view the stepmother with derision, and as a gold-digger who married the old man purely for his money. Did she really love him or was she simply preying on a vulnerable elder, knowing that he would likely die soon?
Proving that a stepmother was a conniving schemer can be difficult, and these lawsuits are often adjudicated on the basis of expert testimony and eyewitness accounts. But then there are cases that would appear to be open and shut. Cases such as, for exa[...]
I love my job. That’s a good thing. There’s an older Johns Hopkins study with a finding that lawyers were nearly 4 times as likely as non-lawyers to suffer from depression. That’s really not a good statistic, and I hope that my colleagues with depression find assistance.
I think that one of the things I like about my job is hearing stories. We humans like stories. Oral tradition is an ancient part of our heritage. Most of us can remember sitting at our parent’s or grandparent’s knee listening to a story. It’s not unusual that we ask to hear the same story over and over again.
So, my initial role in estate and trust litigation is to draw out a story. The call comes in. I listen. Our prospective clients might be classic storytel[...]
Compulsive gambling is a problem for the gambler and his or her loved ones. Gamblers Anonymous members believe that:
“Compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested…The Gamblers Anonymous concept is that compulsive gamblers are really very sick people who can recover if they follow to the best of their ability a simple program that has proved successful for thousands of other men and women with a gambling or compulsive gambling problem.”
Compulsive gamblers may present a variety of issues in trust & estate litigation. A trustee who is a compulsive gambler may find it hard to satisfy their fiduciary duties. Settlors of trusts might disinherit a child because of their c[...]