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 having Pamela in the house. But the caretaker ultimately relents. Once in the house, Pamela discovers that the caretaker has removed all family pictures and mementos and thrown them in the garbage. Aunt Martha’s expensive jewelry collection is missing and her deceased husband’s gold and silver coin collection is gone.
The caretaker is not new to the family. For a few years prior to Aunt Martha’s death, the caretaker isolated the elderly woman from family members – no telephone calls, no visits, and no mail. Family members didn’t know what could be done to protect the then-infirm and isolated Martha.
Now that Aunt Martha has died, the caretaker proudly proclaims that the Pasadena house belongs to her – it’s that simple, and the family should just accept it. The family doesn’t accept it – they hire Hackard Law, and litigation ensues at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.
Fast forward to 2017. It’s been a year since Aunt Martha died. We have robust laws protecting seniors both in Los Angeles and throughout the state, but they are not necessarily well-known. Californians are told “If you suspect abuse, report it.” The State of California Department of Justice has a Hotline for citizens to call if they suspect elder abuse as well as a number of services available to peace officers and prosecutors to support the effective prosecution of abusers.
I often receive phone calls from Los Angeles residents who have their own stories similar to Pamela and Aunt Martha’s. Some call when the family member is clearly isolated with visits, and all communications restricted or non-existent. Others call after their relative has passed away, and property transfers and changed estate plans are newly discovered. Many times estate or trust assets are stolen, and victims have a good idea who perpetrated the theft.
Estate theft and elder financial abuse can be tried by jury in Los Angeles County civil court, and wrongdoers should be held accountable. Hackard Law represents LA-area heirs and beneficiaries in trust litigation on a frequent basis. Call us at 213-357-5200. We want to hear your story.