• Three Major Estate & Probate Litigation Mistakes
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    Three Major Estate & Probate Litigation Mistakes

    I’m attorney Michael Hackard of Hackard Law, and my work is representing clients in estate and probate litigation here in Northern California, from Sacramento to the foothills of Placerville and El Dorado, and from the Central Valley to the Bay. I’ve seen a lot in my 40 years as a lawyer, from great victories for clients to a few very dysfunctional situations where basic mistakes led to an unfavorable outcome. Whatever the area of life, it’s best to treat mistakes and failure as a learning opportunity. How can you do this better next time? So let’s look at the basic mistakes of estate and probate litigation. Number one: no plan.…

  • Unintended Consequences | Preventing Probate, Trust & Estate Litigation
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    Unintended Consequences | Preventing Probate, Trust & Estate Litigation

    As a beneficiary, you have every right to protect family assets from estate hijackers. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true in many areas of life. In estate litigation, it rings particularly spot-on. Estate litigation is expensive and given the choice between prevention and cure most intelligent people would choose prevention. While estate disputes span the gamut from false documents and financial elder abuse to fraudulent transfers, there are a number of common scenarios that repeat themselves. Among them: Joint Tenancy: A parent may freely choose or by undue influence transfer personal assets into joint tenancy with a child or third party. Joint tenancy properties…

  • What Assets are Excluded from California Probate? | Sacramento
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    What Assets are Excluded from California Probate? | Sacramento

    There are various legal forms of ownership within an estate or trust, and these different types of vehicles for securing estate assets help to regulate what will fall under probate and what will stay immune to those proceedings. Let’s take a look at the several exceptions to the California probate rule: • Joint Tenancy: Assets held in joint tenancy ownership are not subject to probate because the decedent’s joint tenancy property interest ceases at death – essentially there is no asset remaining to probate. • Living Trust: Assets held in a living trust are not subject to probate. This is sometimes easier said than done because actual title transfers into…

  • A Short Lesson on Choosing Probate or Civil Court | California Trust Litigation
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    A Short Lesson on Choosing Probate or Civil Court | California Trust Litigation

    California Superior Courts house both probate departments and civil departments. There are cases like elder financial abuse or disputes over an inheritance that may be filed in either the civil department or the probate department. The probate department exercises jurisdiction over proceedings brought under the California Probate Code. Abused beneficiaries generally have no right to a jury trial in probate proceedings. On the other hand, a plaintiff in a civil case has the right to try issues before a jury. This right is enshrined in our California Constitution that states “Trial by jury is an inviolate right and shall be secured by all …” We file and try elder financial…

  • Disputed Trust & Estate Bank Accounts | CA Probate Litigation
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    Disputed Trust & Estate Bank Accounts | CA Probate Litigation

    Determining actual ownership of bank accounts after the death of a loved one can be challenging. There can be real differences in what the parties to the accounts, the beneficiaries of a trust, and the heirs of an estate believe and what they want. It is difficult at times to find a blueprint in which to operate. A 2017 California Court of Appeal decision (Higgins v. Higgins) helps to identify some basic guideposts for ownership determination. The case arose from a lawsuit brought by the personal representative of an estate against a wife who agreed to hold funds in trust for her husband’s stepmother. After her husband’s death she changed…

  • Stopping Undue Influence & Estate Theft | CA Probate and Trust Litigation Attorneys
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    Stopping Undue Influence & Estate Theft | CA Probate and Trust Litigation Attorneys

    Family members of elderly victims of undue influence – a phenomenon often connected with elder financial abuse – recoil in disbelief when learning of an elder’s coerced gift or bequest property transfers. This disbelief gives way to hurt and outrage as the estate thief makes brazen, insincere and false claims to the estate. It’s our job as probate and trust litigation attorneys to systematically gather supporting evidence to overcome the actions of estate thieves. Developing these cases often depends on claims of undue influence. “Undue influence” in California means excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in…

  • What Can You Do If Estate Property is Wrongfully Taken? | CA Probate Litigation
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    What Can You Do If Estate Property is Wrongfully Taken? | CA Probate Litigation

    These things happen: a loved one dies. Their estate is unsecured. Relatives, neighbors and friends gather to honor the decedent. Somewhere there is conflict – maybe not open or glaring – but conflict nonetheless. The fight might be one against many, or a few against a few. Conflict may be particularly rife among stepchildren and stepparents. With the challenge you’re facing, you’re going to need a probate litigation attorney. Let’s continue our scenario: There is someone is in charge, or they appear to be in charge, of the estate. Important documents are secured, and estate or probate lawyer is hired. Amidst all of this mix of grief, uncertainty and anxiety,…

  • Do I Have a Real Case? | Probate, Estates & Trusts Litigation
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    Do I Have a Real Case? | Probate, Estates & Trusts Litigation

    I’m Mike Hackard. I lead Hackard Law, a Northern California based law firm that focuses on probate, estates & trusts litigation. I’m the one who is ultimately responsible for taking a new case. It’s an interesting and an imperfect process. We are not magicians – we know that we can’t magically turn a fact pattern into a viable legal case. Fact patterns are only part of the picture – if we delve deeper, they’re stories of real family traumas and strained personal relationships. Being spurned by a parent – even a parent with Alzheimer’s – or taken advantage of by a stepparent or sibling is not something generally shrugged off.…

  • Probate vs Nonprobate Transfers | How Assets Transfer at Death
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    Probate vs Nonprobate Transfers | How Assets Transfer at Death

    Hello, I’m Mike Hackard. I am a California estate and trust litigation lawyer. I began the practice of law in 1976, and I’ve been very active to this day. I want to discuss how assets pass on after we pass on. We begin by recognizing how different is the part played by our probate courts from that of automatic transfers on death. We can see these differences by telling some stories. We in the United States have the gift of owning property. We have certain property rights and responsibilities associated with the ownership. For example, if we own a home, we have the responsibility of paying property taxes. We may…

  • Untold Stories of Family Estate Disputes | CA Probate Litigation
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    Untold Stories of Family Estate Disputes | CA Probate Litigation

    In any family there should be love, compassion and loyalty. Yet in just about every family there can also be estate fights. The problem with long-hidden family conflicts is that when they surface, it often seems too late for reconciliation. Secrets and untold stories tend to come up on deathbeds and ride in on the aftershocks of loss. From false promises to theft, the real question is not “Can this happen to you?”, but rather, “Can you trust those you grew up with?” We all want to, but with trust lawsuits sometimes we learn the hard way that life isn’t that simple. Conflicts over trusts and estates can appear from…