So, let’s start with some preliminary observations. This reflection is about the issue of character in trust beneficiary disputes. Character counts in all parts of our lives.
And, when it comes to trust beneficiary litigation, it might take center stage. Few, if any, beneficiary disputes feature one flawless individual of great character and his or her virtuous attorneys against a wrongdoer who is evil incarnate, represented by similarly inclined lawyers. This is generally not life.
The words of Jesus remind us that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. It’s hard for any of us to pick up that stone.
Still, it’s evident that when we lawyers are hired to represent wronged trust beneficiaries, the issue of character arise[...]
I’m Mike Hackard. I’ve written two books about estate & trust litigation. Both books include particular observations as to mediation. When we think of “the best day,” few of us would think of litigation. I probably wouldn’t make the connection but for a statement that many mediators give at the beginning of an estate & trust mediation day.
Good mediators say something like this: “Don’t’ expect to get your best-day results at a trial. Mediation is a process of give and take, weighing risk and reward, factoring in financial and emotional costs of trial and finding a way toward closure – for finality.” I’ll add – don’t expect to get your worst day, either.
I’d also add – you, the client, are neither for[...]
When the ancient conqueror Alexander the Great was making his way through Asia, he confronted a special challenge: the Gordian Knot. Whoever loosed the enormous, tangled knot, legend held, would rule an empire. Alexander struggled to untie the knot, but couldn’t make progress. Then, frustrated, he took out his sword and swiftly chopped it in half.
California trust beneficiary litigation over the transfer of the family home can be just as frustrating, and it’s all too common. So too is the confusion that accompanies attempts at resolution. There are plenty of knots to untie. So, how does this problem arise?
The causes that generate house disputes between existing and disinherited trust beneficiaries may be as benign as a trust maker’[...]
Did your interest in a trust evaporate because of the actions of a caregiver who unduly influenced your parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle? It happens and, in our experience, it happens with some frequency. And, once challenged, it is also our experience that a wrongdoing caregiver treats an elder’s natural heirs with irritation and contempt.
When it comes to dogs, it’s called “possession aggression.” This syndrome is a description of a dog’s aggressive behavior toward people or other animals that approach valued objects.
Wrongdoing caregivers certainly end up acquiring valuable objects, whether it’s real or personal property transfers before an elder dies or will, trust or nonprobate transfers (like joint bank accounts) t[...]
I think that it was the first or second week of law school when I first heard the term “officious intermeddler.” I kind of remember looking around the classroom to see if anyone else looked as baffled as I felt. To me, it sounded bad, whatever it was.
In the coming days we went on to learn its meaning and for the most part forget about it after our exams. Now, some 45 years later, I’ve found the term and its significance to be meaningful.
So, according to one legal dictionary an officious intermeddler is a “person who does something to benefit another without being requested or legally obligated to do so, and is therefore not entitled to seek compensation for his or her actions.” This sounds a little legalese. Let’s think [...]
“What you focus on grows” is a garden metaphor – a simple truth with widespread application. Focus is a gift of presence coupled with deliberate practice. It is the use of our imagination paired with or own time commitments to practice essential tasks necessary for elevating our game. Growth spawned by focus is as applicable in our personal lives as it is in sports, music, business and the professions.
So, why do I bring this up under the topic of “Bay Area Trust & Estate House Disputes?” I’ve been thinking about how some recent Hackard Law estate & trust litigation family home cases have expanded our focus.
Bay Area trust and estate house disputes don’t exist in a vacuum. The population base in the Bay Area is huge,[...]
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[...]