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.
The Los Angeles area real estate market is continuing to grow at a dynamic pace. Last year the median price for homes in Southern California jumped 8.2% to over half a million dollars. The LA housing market, like other vibrant California markets, is proving a great way to build wealth by home appreciation. Baby Boomers and the "Silent Generation" comprise a very significant share of LA homeowners. This immense source of wealth is often targeted, taken or obtained by elder financial abusers. This is a problem that we all should know about.
Home equity in Bay Area houses constitutes the largest share of household wealth. Older people, a large part of owner-occupied units, are more likely to have spouses and dual incomes. And, they simply have had more time to accumulate wealth.
I was recently welcomed back as a guest on The Steve Pomeranz Show, hosted by nationally recognized investment advisor Steve Pomeranz. Steve has made his program a fantastic resource for wealth planning, financial literacy, and smart allocation of assets in a volatile economy. It's therefore an honor to return to Steve's show and discuss a serious danger to seniors: elder financial abuse and undue influence.
In a new article on the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Financial Advisor magazine interviewed Michael Hackard for his analysis of its safeguards against elder financial abuse. Financial Advisor is the premiere publication in America for wealth advisors, financial planners, independent broker-dealers, and investment professionals, and it reaches a monthly audience of 110,000 qualified readers.
The roots of 21st Century inheritance laws run deep into the cradle of Western Civilization. The ancient Greek Athenian leader Solon made great efforts to devise a law code that ultimately became one of the foundations of democracy. This code helped establish rules for a civilized society. Part of the code addressed inheritance rights. Prior to the code an Athenian could not make a will. At death the wealth and assets of the decedent simply belonged to his family.
Prospective clients often ask whether I've ever seen an estate or trust dispute like theirs. Case facts and wrongdoers' actions seem so outrageous that aggrieved family members may think that their case is a "one in a million." Of course, given the geographic and litigation scope of our practice, most cases don't feel like "one in a million."
Families want enforceable rules to protect elders from elder financial abuse and financial exploitation. For the most part, such rules have not yet caught up with the reality of the frequency of such abuse. FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is taking some significant steps to institute controls to help identify potential financial abuse of senior investors or individuals with diminished mental capacity.
The Steve Pomeranz Show, a weekly radio program focused on smart finances, recently invited me on as a guest to discuss shielding elderly loved ones from financial exploitation and my new book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. Steve Pomeranz was a knowledgeable and gracious host, and he used his expertise as a prominent wealth and investment advisor to spark a discussion on issues of elder financial abuse. Among the topics Steve and I discussed were:
Stevie Wonder, a child prodigy and now an elder Baby Boomer (he was born in 1950) is inspirational in many ways. His songs are full of life. He deserves credit for his creative genius, and he also deserves credit for this observation, "If you don't ask, you don't get."