Trust beneficiary disputes occur for a host of reasons. And, whatever the reason, it seems that Bay Area trust beneficiary disputes often involve who gets the family home.
Imagine: Your mother is an 86-year-old widow. Your father passed away ten years ago. You have three siblings - two brothers and a sister. You're all now in your 50s.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." We read this in Scripture - the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. We see this in history. It's Abraham Lincoln's warning made on the eve of the Civil War. It's an everyday life truth.
The San Francisco Bay Area is overflowing with equity-rich homeowners. About half of Bay Area residents live in homes they own, and these homes have been escalators to wealth. Bay area home price increases have been astounding, and San Francisco in particular, may be in the early stages of some dramatic increases.
"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.
On this Saturday, September 29th, I'll be delivering a half-hour presentation in San Francisco at the Family Wealth Workshop, hosted by the San Francisco Office of the Assessor. The subject of my talk will be how to create safeguards against elder financial abuse, based on my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse.
Trust beneficiary mediations are emotional. Alzheimer's, dementia, stepmothers, split families, undue influence and missing estate assets are threads that often run through the fabric of mediated estate and trust disputes. Passions run high. Feelings of betrayal mixed with grief are common to trust challengers and a protective belief of entitlement is common to the challenged.
This is the biggest mediation year in our law firm's history. The milestone is significant for our clients, their adversaries and all lawyers involved in the prosecution and defense of estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation.
This is a busy year for estate and trust mediation - the alternative dispute process in which the parties to a lawsuit meet with a neutral third-party, often a retired judge, in an effort to settle the case. Our litigation practice includes California's largest urban areas and so, not coincidentally, does our presence at mediations. While mediations can be dramatically different there are some constants - including strong emotions.