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.
Yesterday I had the privilege of joining Cyrus Webb on Conversations LIVE, a radio show that is also broadcast on podcast platforms like iTunes and IHeartRadio. Working out of Mississippi, Cyrus enjoys nationwide reach with his program and covers a variety of topics, including media, entertainment, and the arts. A professed bibliophile, Cyrus is a passionate reader, and I'm glad he chose my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, as the main topic of discussion.
Trusts are an extremely common way for people to transfer assets to others at the ends of their lives, and it is easy to understand why. When a person uses a will to dispose of assets, the estate must go through a process known as probate, which can prove long and complicated, and cost the estate a significant amount of money in fees. On the other hand, using a trust to transfer assets to beneficiaries avoids probate, as the transfer takes place immediately on the occurrence of some specified event.
It's heartwarming that several of America's major online financial media networks have quoted from my book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. The latest story comes from TheStreet.com, one of our country's leading online financial websites. Brian O'Connell, a business/finance writer, who regularly covers business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health, internet and technology sectors, wrote an interesting article, "My Stepmother Stole My Inheritance."
I was pleased yesterday to join Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio, part of America's largest Catholic radio network, for a discussion on my book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. We covered the basic points of how to safeguard elderly family members from exploitation, a challenge that will only grow in the years ahead as more and more Baby Boomers become senior citizens. That paves the way for the greatest generational transfer of wealth - an estimated $30 trillion - we've ever seen.