“What you focus on grows” is a garden metaphor – a simple truth with widespread application. Focus is a gift of presence coupled with deliberate practice. It is the use of our imagination paired with or own time commitments to practice essential tasks necessary for elevating our game. Growth spawned by focus is as applicable in our personal lives as it is in sports, music, business and the professions.
So, why do I bring this up under the topic of “Bay Area Trust & Estate House Disputes?” I’ve been thinking about how some recent Hackard Law estate & trust litigation family home cases have expanded our focus.
Bay Area trust and estate house disputes don’t exist in a vacuum. The population base in the Bay Area is huge, as is its single-family home ownership. Its residential house price jumps continually make the headlines. The Bay Area is an economic powerhouse. “Were it a country, the Bay Area’s economy would be larger than Saudi Arabia’s, getting rich from its residents’ minds rather than minerals pumped from the ground….” Its annual growth rate over the past three years is nearly double that of the U.S. as a whole.
The largest asset in a Bay Area trust or estate dispute is often the family home. The most basic part of the dispute starts with ownership. And, ownership starts with legal title – usually evidenced by a deed. Title is different than possession, although possession is often held by those in title. Legal title is often the documented name of the property owner in public records. Legal title is held in the name of the grantee on a deed.
The trustee of a trust owns legal title to trust property. Even though the trustee has legal title, he is subject to the terms of the trust and may only transfer it pursuant to the terms of the trust. The world of trust litigation is full of elders’ transfers of legal title to caregivers, joint tenants or trusts amended shortly before the grantor, the elder, died.
Equitable or beneficial interest is different than legal title. Equitable title refers to the enjoyment of the property. Equitable title in trust owned property is owned by the beneficiaries. The trustee holds the property for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. Our recent Bay Area experience includes representing heirs and beneficiaries in trust fights over equitable title, alleged fraudulent transfers of legal title, power of attorney abuse of equitable owners, and wrongful testamentary takings from elders of their legal and beneficial interests in family homes.
So, going back to our theme – “What you focus on grows” – our experience in handling Bay Area estate and trust house disputes has increased our focus on the particularities of the disputes. Such recent particularities include:
- Elders making or amending trusts because of undue influence;
- Caregiver involvement in death bed transfers;
- Addicted or dependent adult children freezing siblings out from contact with an ill or dying parent;
- House transfers made as a result of fraud;
- Trustees’ failures to transfer homes to rightful beneficiaries;
- Trustees’ failures to charge rent for a trust owned home or property;
- And, misuse of an attorney who fails to meet with an ill and vulnerable elder and relies on an insurance salesman to determine the elements of the elder’s estate plan.
At Hackard Law we like to take cases that are substantial and where we think that we can make a significant difference in making a wrongdoer financially accountable for his wrongdoing.
If you would like to speak with us about a Bay Area trust or estate house dispute, call us at Hackard Law – 916 313-3030. We’ll be happy to hear your story.