Atherton, our nation's most expensive ZIP code, is in the heart of the California Bay Area. Atherton's median price for a single-family home in the first half of 2019 was $8.1 million. Real estate agents and brokers who handle these sales have plenty of reason to celebrate when an escrow closes. While Atherton house values are setting records the rest of the Bay Area housing market also have significant values. Median home prices for June, 2019 were $1,549,000 (San Mateo), $1,250,000 (Santa Clara), $926,000 (Alameda), and $665,000 (Contra Costa). When it comes to estate and trust transfers these high house values have significant repercussions.
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.
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.