Is there ever a time when the spirit of the law "will assert itself ... where right and justice would be defeated but for its intervention." Fortunately, yes. An October 2018 California Fourth District Court of Appeal gives us a near perfect example.
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.
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.
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.
Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia.
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.
I listen to hundreds of stories every year. There are dozens of cases for every element of vulnerability. The stories surrounding each element often provide a foundation for the failure of an estate plan that someone tried to make bulletproof.
When it comes to estate planning, a settlor, the maker of a trust, or testator, the maker of a will, seek certainty over uncertainty. They take the time to make an estate plan to diminish risks. Once this is accomplished is the estate plan impervious to challenge? In more colloquial terms - is their will and trust bulletproof. And, if not bulletproof, what will it take to make it bulletproof?
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.