Every year in Los Angeles, elder financial abuse defrauds our senior citizens, stealing away hard-earned retirement income and decades of savings. Families, communities, and the local economy all suffer from this form of financial exploitation. There's plenty more than money involved, though - the well-being of our elderly loved ones and neighbors is on the line. As estate and trust litigation attorneys, we represent beneficiaries and heirs whose rights have been violated, and if necessary we hold perpetrators of elder financial abuse accountable in a court of law.
As the largest and most populous county in California, Los Angeles also has a growing number of senior citizens. In order to prevent elder financial abuse, LA residents have 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[...]
Anxiety fueled by grief is a part of the inventory process of a decedent’s property. A family member is tasked by practicality, family consensus, or an estate document to gather a decedent’s assets. Some assets are obvious – a house, documented bank accounts and securities and onsite personal property. Other assets are more opaque – physically separated in a financial institution safe deposit box or a house or office safe.
Safe deposit boxes add a mix of mystery and distrust to disputed estates. Mystery enfolds the basic questions that heirs and beneficiaries of disputed estates strive to answer – questions beginning with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.”
Safe deposit boxes have long been regulat[...]
It’s 2017. Experts estimate that California’s population is approaching 40 million. Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Alameda, Contra Costa and Sacramento Counties are a very significant part of our state’s annual growth. These are also counties where Hackard Law regularly litigates disputed trust, estate and elder financial abuse cases.
The breadth of our trust litigation practice in our nation’s most populous state provides a vista into what causes trust disputes to evolve into lawsuits. We receive dozens of calls from prospective clients every week. A significant number of these calls involve general trustee misconduct and more specifically trust and asset hiding.
The failure and refusal of a truste[...]
Your parents owned a business and real estate. They successfully managed the business for decades and built up family assets. They put these assets into a trust where they remained as trustees during their lifetime.
When they passed away, successor trustees took over. The successor trustees, through incompetence or even wrongdoing, are damaging your family’s economic heritage. They are failing to keep trust property separate and identified, they lack complete and accurate financial records, they are self-dealing, and they are failing to comply with California’s requirements for serving as trustees.
Your parents intended for you to benefit from their lifetime of work and planning. You can see that their efforts – their legacy –[...]
The telephone call can be long or short. The message may be clear at the outset or only parsed out after a series of my seemingly unrelated questions. The caller’s emotions may be controlled or buffeted by a frustrating mix of disbelief and surprise from trustee mistreatment – even theft. The story elements are much the same – the caller is a child of a now-deceased parent who provided for the child in a trust. The trustee may be the child’s sibling, an appointed licensed fiduciary, a bank, or a securities company. Whoever the trustee is – the duty is the same – “The trustee has a duty to administer the trust solely in the interest of the beneficiaries.” In 2000 the United States Supreme Court described this duty:
Recent Judicial Council of California Court Statistics confirm that Los Angeles probate and mental health court trials total over 14,000 per year. Many of these trials involve beneficiary allegations of wrongdoing against a trustee or battles to remove an existing trustee. So what is the background that sets the stage for trustee disputes in LA?
We start with noting that a living trust becomes irrevocable at the death or incapacity of its maker. New trustees are often appointed when the trust becomes irrevocable or when conflicts arise between a beneficiary and the trustee. Conflicts between former trustees and new or successor trustees often arise when the successor trustee requests some, if not all, documents in the possession of the f[...]
What happened to Mom and Dad’s house? We’re estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigators. We’ve heard this question asked of us time and time again. Why? Well, family house transfers are often ground zero for estate and trust fights. The facts change, but the parties, transfer techniques, and general family shock at learning of the living or estate transfers follow certain patterns.
So how do these house fights develop?
Your mom or your dad is a widow or widower. He or she lives alone or with an essentially dependent adult child. The adult child may be on a Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability program. Many times the adult child has an alcohol or substance abuse problem.
Your elderly parent is vulnerabl[...]
California superior courts have both probate departments and civil departments. Some cases may be filed in either the probate or civil department. There are also cases like financial elder abuse that may be filed in the civil department or the probate department. The probate department exercises jurisdiction over proceeding brought under the probate code. There is generally no right to a jury trial in probate proceedings.
On the other hand a plaintiff in a civil case has the right to try issues before a jury. This right is enshrined in our California Constitution that states “Trial by jury is an inviolate right and shall be secured by all ...” We file and try elder financial abuse cases in the civil departments of the superior court.[...]