Unless you're from Santa Barbara, you may not know the name Huguette Clark. She was the reclusive heiress to a $300 million copper and railroad fortune amassed by her father, W.A. Clark, a former US Senator from Montana who also held the distinction of being the founder of the city of Las Vegas. When Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104, she created by will the Bellosguardo Foundation, whose purpose was to foster the arts by displaying her art collection at her massive $85 million, 23 ½ acre summer home in Santa Barbara.
It looks like the long estate battle between 95-year-old billionaire Viacom owner Sumner Redstone and his former live-in girlfriend Manuela Herzer has finally come to an end. Yesterday the two sides reached a settlement agreement, and just in time - the parties were about to enter into a second round of litigation over Herzer being removed from Redstone's will in 2015.
You may not be a country music fan, but even if you're not you can probably appreciate Johnny Cash's tongue in cheek rendition of "I've Been Everywhere."
At times I think that we at Hackard Law have a bird's-eye view of California trust litigation. Our perspective is gained from both the cases that we take and don't take.
It's now 2019, and here at Hackard Law we are grateful for new challenges and new opportunities. 2018 was a year that kept us very busy - week in and week out, our attorneys fanned out across California to protect the beneficiary rights of clients in estate and trust litigation. Wherever possible, we'd seek a path to mediation as a way to pursue the client's best interests and minimize conflict. We've also been more active than ever in taking on perpetrators of elder financial abuse and holding them accountable in civil court.
Country music legend Glen Campbell, author of hits like Wichita Lineman and Rhinestone Cowboy, lived a long and fruitful 81 years. At the time of his passing away from Alzheimer's disease in August of 2017, he would leave behind some 60 studio albums as well as eight children from four different marriages. With royalties included, his estate has been estimated to reach a scale of $50 million, seemingly more than enough for all beneficiaries.
Persuasion "starts with a look in the mirror. If you do not know your own goals, biases, emotions and preferences, you cannot hope to see your audience clearly." These words from Richard Shell and Mario Moussa's book, The Art of the Woo, ring true for me. This principle is also well stated in Matthew Chapter 7, where we are admonished that it is hypocrisy to be concerned with the faults of another while we ignore our own more serious offenses.
As an attorney who has spent many decades working in the area of trusts and estates, I wish I could say that it's possible to create an iron-clad trust document that will do precisely what the maker intended. Sadly, even when the best attorneys draft such documents for intelligent, practical, and thoughtful clients, there will always be unintended and unforeseen circumstances. That is especially true when there are blended families that may include ex-spouses, step-children, half-children, and unmarried partners. In such cases, Murphy's Law is almost certain to prevail.
Conflicts between stepmothers and biological children over estate and trust assets have become a familiar feature of litigation in California superior courts. Only a certain proportion of these disputes make it to the legal arena, but they're part of a continuing trend that's worth noticing.