When most of us hear the term "breaking bad," we think of the crime drama Breaking Bad. The drama ended in 2013 after a five-year run. Breaking bad is not confined to an award-winning TV series. The idiom of "break bad" means "to go bad." You don't have to read too many newspapers to see that many of America's banks and bankers are "breaking bad" in cases of elder financial abuse.
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.
We want the professionals serving us to aspire to and act consistent with the highest ethics and standards of their profession. Doctors should "first do no harm," lawyers need to be honest with their clients, themselves, courts and juries, and trustees who manage trust assets must be honest and loyal in their administration.
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."
Now this happens all the time. Uncle Buster tells you that you're going to inherit his house. Now you love Uncle Buster, and you want him to live to a ripe old age. But you know in your heart that when Uncle Buster dies you are going to inherit his house. Uncle Buster let a few other relatives and neighbors know that he was eventually going to give you the house.
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."
On October 18, 2017, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act became law. Among other things the law requires that the United States Department of Justice establish best practices for data collection on elder abuse and collection and publish data on elder abuse cases and investigations. The "sense of the Senate" expresses that: "(1) elder abuse involves exploitation of potentially vulnerable individuals; (2) combatting elder abuse requires support for victims and prevention; and (3) the Senate supports a multipronged approach to prevent elder abuse, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators of elder abuse crimes."
Hello, I'm Mike Hackard. I'm the chair of Hackard Law, a law firm focusing on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation in California's major urban areas. I'm the author of The Wolf at The Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. The book is now available for order on Amazon. This is episode 23, where I discuss reviewing a potential case of elder financial abuse or other wrongdoing over a trust or estate.