ABCs of California Trust, Probate & Estate Disputes | 2018
Articles,  Blog

ABCs of California Trust, Probate & Estate Disputes | 2018

William Shakespeare’s observation that “What’s
past is prologue” is a ready reference when we’re thinking about the future. We often see that what has happened until
now sets the stage for what will happen in the future. When it comes to California trust, probate
and estate litigation the past year – 2017 – is likely a preface to what will take
place in 2018. Hackard Law’s 2017 efforts reflect a period
of intense litigation focusing on the protection of elders and/or their beneficiaries against
estate and trust wrongdoers. Our firm filed trust or elder financial abuse
cases in the probate and civil courts of more than twenty California counties. Our team of lawyers continues to grow in order
to handle the influx of cases arising from the growing epidemic of elder financial abuse. Our efforts are not centered on litigation
alone; we’ve also worked to bring attention to the plight of elders stung by abuse. My book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence
and Elder Financial Abuse, helps to shine a spotlight on a very significant national
problem. When we look back over the last year we can
apply the truth in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s observation that “The Life of the
law has not been logic. It has been experience.” While attorney-client privilege and privacy
issues prevent me from detailing the particularities of recent litigation, I can briefly generalize
the kinds of circumstances and events that generate the need for judicial intervention. The following factors often come into play:
The Aftereffects of Addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction create destruction
in all areas of the life of the addicted and his or her loved ones. Such aftereffects in estate and trust litigation
involve the use of undue influence by an addicted son or daughter against a vulnerable parent
that results in a transfer of assets to the addicted child. These transfers are often the focus of a challenge
to late or deathbed amendments to wills or trusts. Backstabber Baloney. This title may not be appropriate for law
reviews, but it often fits the circumstances of elder financial abuse. Given that the abuse is visited upon vulnerable
elders, an abuser takes advantage of the vulnerability by bad-mouthing a sibling or siblings, isolating
the elder for his or her protection, or convincing the elder that the siblings frozen out by
the abuser simply don’t want to visit mom or dad. Cons, Caretakers and Cancer. Elders can be conned and are often the particular
targets of wrongdoers. Crimes against seniors are reprehensible and
are a concern for all families. While caretakers can be a great blessing to
a family in need, errant caretakers can be a nightmare. Caretaker oversight is critical to looking
out for the financial and physical health of seniors. I mention cancer because we’ve litigated
a number of cases where trusts were amended either shortly before or during a decedent’s
placement into hospice care. In cases like these, it’s usually pretty
obvious that undue influence was exerted, as the lawful beneficiaries of estate plans
were cut out in favor of the wrongdoer. Hackard Law is looking forward to 2018. We’ll continue to focus on practice on estate,
probate, trust and elder financial abuse disputes in California’s large urban areas, whether
that’s Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, Santa Clara, or Orange and Riverside. We’re dedicated to protecting client interests,
and you can contact us today at 916-313-3030. We’ll be happy to see how we can best help
you. Thank you.

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