A recent news story on a Bay Area trust dispute caught my attention - not necessarily over the legal details, but because of the general elements common to many cases of estate litigation. It has features we encounter all too frequently in our advocacy for beneficiaries: a successful family business, an ailing patriarch, his children from a prior marriage, and a stepmother. These are the ingredients for potential conflict.
Next week on Thursday, October 25th, I'm honored to be the keynote speaker at Eskaton Lodge Gold River for a special community presentation on how seniors can protect themselves from fraud and identity theft.
A few friends and colleagues have expressed interest in having me talk about legal marketing - a subject that I both enjoy and regularly participate in. We should start with a little history. I became a lawyer in December 1976. At that time lawyers were generally prohibited from publicizing themselves or their law firms in newspapers, magazines, radio or television. It was expected that a lawyers reputation could only grow with experience and community involvement - an obvious advantage to those who had been in the legal profession for many years. Advertising rules began to change in June 1977 with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. I've followed the effects of Bates since my very first year of law practice.
Photo Credit: Sam Beebe
When billionaire Douglas Tompkins, the co-founder of two major brands, North Face and Espirit, died in a kayak accident in Chile in December 2015, he left everything in his estate to his second wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, as well as to foundations the couple created to preserve land in Chile and Argentina. His two daughters, including Summer Tompkins Walker, and his five grandchildren who live in the Bay Area, were all disinherited. This is yet another case of the widowed stepmother getting almost everything.
The Elder Abuse Guide for Law Enforcement (EAGLE) is now available online. "The guide is a national web module designed to support enforcement officers in identifying, intervening, and resolving cases of elder abuse...EAGLE funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and was led by the University of Southern California's (USC) Keck School of Medicine, host of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)."
Focus groups in estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation are a valuable tool in determining community attitudes to undue influence and financial abuse cases.Participant selection, presentation venue and moderator approaches all play a part in this important process of community discernment.
He was one of the greatest spy fiction writers of our era, and his movies and characters will certainly live on for decades, but for all his brilliance as a novelist, Tom Clancy was not good at plotting a satisfying end to his own estate.