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.
Last week the influential wealth-management magazine ThinkAdvisor called me for an interview on a complex but important topic: why blended families are prone to estate and trust litigation, and why stepmothers often occupy a central role in these conflicts. This is a subject I've covered at length in my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse.
Recently I spoke with reporter Anya Kamenetz of the Chicago Tribune. She had contacted me for my thoughts on the rising challenge of elder financial abuse in America, and how we can spot the warning signs, something I've written about in-depth in my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. Anya begins her article with a story from a reader. It describes a textbook potential case of undue influence: an elderly divorced man has a new younger girlfriend with designs on his estate assets originally intended for his children. Unfortunately these stories are increasingly common, which means family members need to be alert for signs of exploitation.
It's fun for me to reflect upon some of the funny things and experiences that I've encountered over the years. My memory of some real-world events only permits to share the essence of the experiences. I've changed identifying details to protect both privacy and attorney client confidences. Given the changes, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
It's a privilege to have a chapter from my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, featured in The Wall Street Journal's financial newswire MarketWatch. The chapter concerns a phenomenon I've encountered frequently in estate and trust lawsuits: conflicts between stepmothers and the natural children of a decedent over property and assets. The chances of a dispute rise dramatically when a stepmother's vision for the future of a family trust is at odds with what her husband originally intended for his children from his previous marriage.