Bay Area Superior Courts are ground zero for estate & trust house disputes. Four of the counties, with a combined population of more than 5.3 million people, have a greater population than 28 of the 50 U.S. states. These counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo - have more than 1.6 million homeowners.
When estate and trust disputes arise over the distribution of Bay Area homes, the financial stakes are high. A Bay Area home’s average median price in late 2018 was $845,000. San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties led the way with median prices of $1.329 million and $1.1 million respectively. Given the amount of money at issue in a disputed ownership of an estate or trust home, it is natural that Northern California est[...]
You meet with your lawyer before the mediation. You are the plaintiff in challenging a trust. Maybe the challenge is based on incapacity. Maybe vulnerability to undue influence. Maybe even fraud.
You’ve never been to a mediation and you don’t quite know what to expect. Will you have to sit across from the person who took your loved one’s estate? Will you only be with your own lawyer? How long will the mediator be with you and your lawyer? Will the mediator want to speak with you? Is there anything that you should say? Shouldn’t say?
Okay – lots of questions – with answers to them occurring throughout the day. The mediation is going late – maybe late afternoon – in some cases late evening. As the hours pass, you’ll likely[...]
I’m Mike Hackard. Our California law firm, Hackard Law, regularly litigates probate and trust litigation disputes.
A significant number of these disputes involve fights between a decedent’s biological children from an earlier marriage and the decedent’s second or third spouse. These cases end up in the California Superior Courts.
Cases generally considering the rights of heirs and trust beneficiaries are filed in the probate courts and are tried without a jury. Financial elder abuse cases, cases that can be tried before a jury, are often filed in the civil divisions of the Superior Courts.
I’ve written a book that addresses in part fractured inheritance, lost inheritance and disinheritance disputes between widowed stepmothe[...]
I’m Mike Hackard. I lead the law firm, Hackard Law, in our mission to represent clients in estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. This mission often leads to mediation, sometimes shortly into the process and sometimes close to trial.
Whenever mediation occurs it is usually a day-long event – an event that often includes a “hard day’s night.” The process involves a neutral mediator that helps effectuate negotiation between the attorneys for estates, trusts, heirs, and beneficiaries. Clients are deeply involved in the process and are understandably swept with emotion as offers and counter-offers come in.
It is easy to forget the spirit of what the case is really about – a decedent’s life and their wishes to benefi[...]
Hackard Law is regularly engaged by Alameda County residents to represent them in estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. The Alameda County Superior Court is the trial court for civil, criminal and probate cases filed in the County. The County is home to more than 260,000 adults over the age of 65.
“Alameda County Adult Protective Services receives approximately 400 reports of (elder) abuse per month with self-neglect as the highest reported abuse, followed by (elder) financial abuse.”
Elder financial abuse is often not discovered until the elder has passed away. When the abuse is discovered, estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation often ensues. The economic subject of such litigation often revolves around the [...]
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[...]
Country music legend Glen Campbell, author of hits like Wichita Lineman and Rhinestone Cowboy, lived a long and fruitful 81 years. At the time of his passing away from Alzheimer’s disease in August of 2017, he would leave behind some 60 studio albums as well as eight children from four different marriages. With royalties included, his estate has been estimated to reach a scale of $50 million, seemingly more than enough for all beneficiaries.
There was just one problem, though – Campbell disinherited three of his eight children in his 13-page will from 2006. For reasons unknown to the public, the country star specifically excluded daughter Kelli Campbell and sons William and Wesley Campbell from any sort of inheritance. Campbell desig[...]
California heirs and beneficiaries expect that trustees, estate representatives and executors will act as good and prudent fiduciaries. When these fiduciaries fail and take money belonging to trust beneficiaries, they may be subject to civil and even criminal penalties.
There are several cases in point. A Sacramento woman was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2018 for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering (U.S. v. Stewart-Cabrera, United States District Court, E.D. California, Case No. 2:18-CR-0085 KJM). The woman, a professional fiduciary, served as the trustee of a trust that owned Sacramento property. The U.S. Attorney’s news release indicates that Loretta Darlene Stewart-Cabrera, the trustee, carried out a scheme in whi[...]
You’ve probably heard that “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.” Public opinion guru Dr. Frank Luntz is making a career from this truth – he explains that he is “testing language and find(ing) words that will help his clients” explain their products or public issues.
So, we now have a new word when talking about California trust law, issues, modifications and transfers. It’s a word that we might say, but not necessarily hear or understand. The word is “decanting.”
The word’s general usage is associated with wine – pouring wine from one bottle into a carafe to remove sediment and allow it to breathe. California now gives new meaning to the word in its recently enacted Uniform Trust Decanting Act.