Providing an objective assessment for the frequency of stepmother-step-children probate and trust battles is elusive - but to ignore it is to live in another world. For us the anecdotal evidence is in. Case by case - Will Contests, Trust Contests, Life Estate challenges, Probate Objections, Deed Revocations or Joint Tenancy quarrels -- the interests and paths of stepmothers and stepchildren often collide. In California, these collisions of interests play themselves out in the probate and civil divisions of our state's Superior Courts.
Anyone living in the real world wouldn't be surprised by research showing that only about 20% of adult stepchildren feel close to their stepmoms. Moreover, studies show abundant evidence that stepmothers and [...]
Estate disputes are ugly – sometimes really ugly. So when trustees, beneficiaries, and heirs step into the fight, good counsel – that is, probate and trust litigation attorneys – should help their clients count the costs. Many times that is easier said than done. Given the complications of estate fights, estimating costs can be an elusive process.
One particular estate fight focused on the decedent’s domicile may become like a runaway train. Fighting estate battles in two or more states can seriously tax a trust, heir, or beneficiary’s bank account. The fight over of a decedent’s home may be protracted and susceptible to inconsistent state rulings. A person may reside in multiple states but only be domiciled in one. A Califor[...]
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 of[...]
When it appears you are cut out of an estate, probate distribution or inheritance from a trust, you should promptly seek counsel. Time is critical, as there are a number of statutory provisions that limit will, estate and trust challenges. The law does not favor those who sit on their rights. Statutes of limitation are uniform throughout California – whether the trust or probate dispute arises in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles or San Diego.
Those confronted with disinheritance often face stark choices. Grief, betrayal and disbelief are a potent mix that may easily delay or eliminate any challenge against a wrongdoer. For those who seek action, there may be difficulties in paying for an estate and trust litigation attor[...]
Over years of litigating probate, trust and estate battles in California Superior Courts, our clients frequently ask the question: Do many families go through estate battles like the one we are experiencing?
Estate litigation battles, often outgrowths of disputes within families, have their own distinctive troubles. That said, the more estate fights we see, the more certain prevalent patterns become evident.
We've identified five of the most common court motions in probate, trust and estate battles. We hope that this list helps those who may be facing trust or estate battles.
Petitions against Former Trustees Alleging Wrongful Acquisition and Misappropriation of Trust Assets
Petition For Order Removing Co-Trustee and Appointin[...]
Woody Allen says, "Showing up is 80 percent of life." He also said that once you start your project “you are half way towards something good happening.” Now I can’t say that I view Woody Allen as an exemplar of great wisdom, but he really has a good point when it comes to showing up. I think that my mother actually taught me this lesson at a young age.
In forty years of practicing law I’ve had to show up at a lot of events, hearings, and meetings. I’ve traveled the country – appeared in court in eleven different states and personally met with associated lawyers in four foreign countries on their home turf. At one time we had clients in thirty-one states and I visited all of the states. I knew that showing up is 80% of success[...]
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[...]
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[...]