A recent case out of Orange County poses some tough questions on the limits of charity donor solicitation, especially when it concerns the elderly. 98-year-old former developer and philanthropist James Emmi and his 84-year-old wife Catherine are suing Chapman University for breach of contract, fraud, deceit, and elder abuse in a suit filed this week. They allege that over a period of years Chapman President James Doti "preyed" on Emmi to snag millions for the construction of new school facilities.
When someone hurts our senior citizens, such wrongdoing isn't just an individual matter - it's a flagrant challenge to our whole community. And just as members of families and neighborhoods should look out for each other, so we also trust public servants to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially from the crime of elder abuse.
When attorneys pursue an estate or trust case on behalf of their client, one of the key factors in the litigation process is discovery, whereby documents and other evidence are subject to exposure for their possible use in court. All kinds of records are useful - estate, medical, financial, and those of law enforcement.
When tabloid magazines proclaim that the stars are "just like us," they have a point. After all, when they die some celebrities leave behind estate disputes - often nastier and on a larger scale. Famed Hollywood actor Tony Curtis is a case in point. Curtis, who died at age 85 in 2010, was a screen legend who lived the Hollywood life, a circumstance that added up to six marriages and five children. His last wife and widow, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, was 42 years his junior (they married in 1998 when she was 31 and he was 73).
In matters of estate litigation, disputes between parties to a will often become tangled and contentious. With the case of the James Brown estate, however, we can safely assert that the scale and acrimony involved are several orders of magnitude greater than your run-of-the-mill will contest.
Elder financial abuse cases go unnoticed far more often than they might ever reach the news, but the story of Geraldine Webber is proving an exception to that rule. Webber, who resided in Portsmouth, NH, and died at age 94 in late 2012, designated an unrelated police officer the main beneficiary of her $2.7 million estate.