Among California’s several high-stakes estate and trust litigation law firms, Hackard Law is among the leaders. When estate and trust beneficiaries have high stakes in litigated disputes, they have a major interest in its outcome. There are no magic bullets in estate litigation – there are processes and knowledge-based strategies that can improve outcomes – but the risks of litigation always exist.
The very nature of litigation is risk – risk that the result sought will fail, risk that the expenditure of time and money will not be worth the reward, and risk that the costs of failure can be high. Such risks should be assessed and are a part of reasoned decision-making.
Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions W[...]
Californians have increasing concern over the frequency of elder financial abuse. The concerns are reasonable and prudent. California’s 65 and over population is 14% of the state’s overall population – that’s over 5 million people.
The American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) published a handbook in 2005 titled “Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Lawyers.” The Handbook is still in wide use today. The Handbook’s breadth could give rise to dozens of videos as well as multiple articles. This short commentary is not broad based – it only focuses on what the Handbook has to say about an elder’s functional abilities related to Financial Capacity.
The Wall Street Journal’s article “The Secrets of Resilience” is full of observations worth sharing. The article explores the patterns that shed light on how some people’s struggles to overcome life’s adversities presage their later success. The article captures the resilient spirit in stories of some notable Americans, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey and Louis Armstrong.
Resilience exists across cultures and societies. Its stories animate us in times of great challenge. Winston Churchill, depicted in the Darkest Hour, epitomizes the resilient spirit. The movie ends with a quote attributed to Churchill. Whether Churchill said the words or not they capture the virtue’s potent meaning: “Success is not final; failure[...]
Let me start with this – I am not a psychologist. I am a lawyer – a lawyer who at this stage of my career is heavily focused on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. So much so that I wrote a book focusing on estate and trust wrongdoing – The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse.
Writing a book is a terrific learning experience – it causes you to focus on what you know, what you hear and what you probably don’t know. So, I’ll start with what I know, in this case, about the issue of codependency. I know that it is generally defined as a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or un[...]
William Shakespeare’s observation that “What’s past is prologue” is a ready reference when we’re thinking about the future. We often see that what has happened until now sets the stage for what will happen in the future. When it comes to California trust, probate and estate litigation the past year – 2017 – is likely a preface to what will take place in 2018.
Hackard Law’s 2017 efforts reflect a period of intense litigation focusing on the protection of elders and/or their beneficiaries against estate and trust wrongdoers. Our firm filed trust or elder financial abuse cases in the probate and civil courts of more than twenty California counties. Our team of lawyers continues to grow in order to handle the influx of cases [...]
The roots of 21st Century inheritance laws run deep into the cradle of Western Civilization. The ancient Greek Athenian leader Solon made great efforts to devise a law code that ultimately became one of the foundations of democracy. This code helped establish rules for a civilized society. Part of the code addressed inheritance rights. Prior to the code an Athenian could not make a will. At death the wealth and assets of the decedent simply belonged to his family.
Solon changed this. An Athenian, if he had no children, could by will distribute at death his wealth and assets to whomever he pleased. This change was said to show that the decedent could decide “that he esteemed friendship a stronger tie than kindred, affection than necessity[...]
Prospective clients often ask whether I’ve ever seen an estate or trust dispute like theirs. Case facts and wrongdoers’ actions seem so outrageous that aggrieved family members may think that their case is a “one in a million.” Of course, given the geographic and litigation scope of our practice, most cases don’t feel like “one in a million.”
An estate and trust litigation practice at times feels like an emergency room. While non-emergency physicians have little opportunity to treat high-energy trauma cases endemic to car accident injuries, emergency room physician see such cases with regularity since nearly 10 percent of all injury-related visits to the emergency room are due to vehicle collisions. So when people come to s[...]
Now this happens all the time. Uncle Buster tells you that you’re going to inherit his house. Now you love Uncle Buster, and you want him to live to a ripe old age. But you know in your heart that when Uncle Buster dies you are going to inherit his house. Uncle Buster let a few other relatives and neighbors know that he was eventually going to give you the house.
Uncle Buster dies. Aunt Thelma, Buster’s long lost sister shows up at the funeral and announces that she’s in charge of Buster’s estate. You’re initially too shy to ask her about Buster’s will, but you’re concerned. Within days Thelma is cleaning out the house and putting all of its contents up for a Saturday garage sale. You stop by the sale and get up your nerve to[...]
We learn by stories. Given our law firm’s position and commitment to LA estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation, we hear lots of stories – stories that many times develop new chapters in Los Angeles County Superior Court. While I can’t reveal attorney client communications, I can take literary license to depict issues of estate theft and wrongdoing that we regularly litigate. In this spirit, let’s go back to June 2016.
My client, “Pamela,” calls me to tell me her 93-year-old “Aunt Martha” died earlier that day in Pasadena. Pamela is the closest living female relative to her aunt. Pamela drives to her Aunt Martha’s house later the same day. Aunt Martha’s caretaker is in the house and at first objects to havi[...]
When “an elderly person with a joint bank account dies, do the funds belong to the decedent’s estate or do they belong to the additional signer as a co-owner of the account?” A recent California Court of Appeal case held that “[s]ums remaining on deposit at the death of a party to a joint account belong to the surviving party . . . as against the estate of the decedent unless there is clear and convincing evidence of a different intent.” This is a basic or black-letter rule, a clear statement of the law. It is also a trap for those inclined to seize upon a seemingly clear explanation of the law that leaves no room for interpretation or nuance.
In estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation, dueling advocates argue ove[...]