This week the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette spotlighted the growing threat of elder financial abuse and its tragic aftermath. The author of the article, Ginny Monk, also referenced my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, for additional background to a problem that is only expanding in scale.
California trust & estate mediation: is timing everything? Probate Courts in California have a variety of voluntary probate settlement programs designed to assist in the resolution of probate, estate and trust related claims and disputes. Los Angeles has the "Pro Bono Probate Settlement Program", San Francisco has the "Probate Pro Bono Mediation Program", Alameda County has a Mediator Panel for its "Alternative Dispute Resolution Program", and Sacramento has a "Probate Court Appointed Attorney Panel". The timing and expense of mediation is a consideration whether the process is initiated by way of a Superior Court program or through private mediation.
This week I joined Bob Brooks, host of the radio show Prudent Money out of Forth Worth, TX. Bob is a veteran financial advisor and has dedicated himself to helping people make smart investments, get out of debt, and plan for retirement. He advocates responsible stewardship of money, and this principle shows itself as true as ever in how trustees should respect trust beneficiary rights. Bob and I discussed the challenge of blended families and stepmother disputes over estates in the context of my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. A passage from Proverbs sums up what families face:
The San Francisco-based project Seven Ponds, devoted to creating dialogue on death and the process of dying, reviewed my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. I'm glad they found it informative and useful. Seven Ponds is especially sensitive to the topic of elder financial exploitation since seniors who are near death will often be vulnerable to predators.
The Los Angeles area real estate market is continuing to grow at a dynamic pace. Last year the median price for homes in Southern California jumped 8.2% to over half a million dollars. The LA housing market, like other vibrant California markets, is proving a great way to build wealth by home appreciation. Baby Boomers and the "Silent Generation" comprise a very significant share of LA homeowners. This immense source of wealth is often targeted, taken or obtained by elder financial abusers. This is a problem that we all should know about.
Most of us experience some disquiet when we first meet with a professional whom we've sought out to help solve a problem. It can be hard to put into words the situation that we're in, or even what help we need. We don't know what we don't know. We do know that something is wrong, and we need help in getting it fixed.
Yesterday I was pleased to deliver a presentation at the San Francisco Law Library's Lunchtime Speaker Series. The topic I spoke on is both relevant and important to every family: "Elder Financial Abuse: A Budding Revolution in Estate Litigation."
Blundering trust and estate bandits are still bandits - outlaws secretly or openly defiant of laws and responsibilities that go with the legal obligations required of those who possess or are otherwise responsible for estate or trust assets. While the vast majority of trust and estate professionals take their fiduciary obligations seriously, unfortunately some outliers, some might say "bandits" - those who take "unfair advantage over others usually to procure inordinate payment or profit."  Inordinate payment may range from outright theft to unconscionable overbilling that drain trusts and estate funds.
Among California's several high-stakes estate and trust litigation law firms, Hackard Law is one of the leaders. When estate and trust beneficiaries have high stakes in litigated disputes, they have a major interest in its outcome. There are no magic bullets in estate litigation - there are processes and knowledge-based strategies that can improve outcomes - but the risks of litigation always exist.