Trust instruments are like a set of instructions. They can be like a clear day or a murky pond. A good set of instructions should be simple, readable and avoid legal jargon. The settlor, the maker of the trust, should work to clearly identify the beneficiaries of his trust, their form of interest (income or principal) and the timing and plan of distribution.
Elder financial abuse puts a senior's livelihood and well-being in jeopardy, and the problem isn't going away. If anything, the epidemic of exploitation against our elderly loved ones is only expanding, with Bloomberg recently estimating the annual losses across America at $37 billion. And this month Wells Fargo released its Elder Needs Survey, a study that interviewed 784 older Americans and 798 adult children of seniors. Its results help give us a fuller picture of how wrongdoers can find opportunities to perpetrate elder financial abuse, and how we can stop it or prevent it altogether.
Today I was honored to lead a presentation for a Continuing Legal Education seminar on trustee removal. Along with co-presenters Robert Paine and Hackard Law's own Dave Jones, we delivered a comprehensive breakdown of the reasons for and tactics of removing bad trustees. Under California Probate Code 15642(b), there are nine clear reasons a trustee can be removed from administering a trust. These are the following:
The power and potency of California elder financial abuse litigation dramatically changed for the better a few years ago - to be exact January 1, 2014 - the date the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act became effective. It is one thing to have a robust new statute to protect elders and their families and it is another thing to enforce it. The California Legislature noted at the time of the law's passing that "cases of abuse of . . . (infirm elderly persons and dependent adults) are seldom prosecuted as criminal matters, and few civil cases are brought in connection with this abuse." It's 2018, and while the law has changed and become more forceful, it is my experience that these cases are still "seldom prosecuted as criminal matters" and "few civil cases are brought in connection with this abuse."
Elder abuse has become a more prominent issue in the United States. As the World War II and Baby Boomer generations age, the American population boasts more senior citizens than ever. These seniors are driving up the demand for estate planning services, healthcare services, assisted living facilities, and in-home care. Unfortunately, reliance on these service providers can also expose a senior citizen to the risk of abuse.
Recently American radio legend Jim Bohannon interviewed me on my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. Financial exploitation of seniors poses a threat to our families and communities, and wrongdoers continue to prey on our elderly loved ones. Jim asked me a great question: What steps can we take to protect ourselves and our relatives from elder financial abuse? Here are some concrete measures I outlined:
Yesterday I was honored to be interviewed by Jim Bohannon, a longtime veteran in broadcasting and one of the top talk radio hosts in America. We discussed my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, and the dangers posed by exploitation of our elderly loved ones. Among the topics we covered were vulnerabilities exhibited by seniors to misconduct, who perpetrates elder financial abuse, and the four elements of undue influence. I'd like to thank Jim for having me on his show - it's a privilege to talk with a broadcasting legend and strike another blow in the fight to protect the most vulnerable among us. Here's an excerpt from the show: