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.
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."
We learn by stories. Given our law firm's position and commitment to LA estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation, we hear lots of stories - stories that many times develop new chapters in Los Angeles County Superior Court. While I can't reveal attorney client communications, I can take literary license to depict issues of estate theft and wrongdoing that we regularly litigate. In this spirit, let's go back to June 2016.
There is an African saying that "If the lion does not tell his story, the hunter will." It doesn't take long as an estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigator for Los Angeles clients to see that estate wrongdoers peddle similar stories to justify their actions. And, if these fanciful stories are not challenged the stories won't be refuted. So how do estate or trust asset hunters engaged in wrongdoing tell their stories? They usually sound something like this:
Recent Judicial Council of California Court Statistics confirm that Los Angeles probate and mental health court trials total over 14,000 per year. Many of these trials involve beneficiary allegations of wrongdoing against a trustee or battles to remove an existing trustee. So what is the background that sets the stage for trustee disputes in LA?