Lafayette Estate Litigation Blog

How manipulative people con the elderly

When someone uses undue influence, perhaps to alter an estate plan in their favor, they often do it by manipulating the elderly person to change the plan. They want it to look official. They want it to look like the plan reflects the elderly person's true wishes. That's why they have to manipulate the person themselves into making those changes.

How do they do it? There are four general steps:

  • First off, they look for an area of weakness. For instance, an elderly person may really crave socialization or they may be vulnerable due to the care and assistance they require.
  • After they know what the weakness is, they exploit it. They use it against that person.
  • As they do so, they convince the person to give up assets. For instance, they may threaten to stop taking care of them if they don't change the will, and the elderly person will feel like they have no choice. The manipulator could also try to convince the elderly person that the changes are what they really want, even when it's not in their best interests.
  • When they find a tactic that works, the manipulator will repeat it over and over to get what they want.

Beneficiaries have a right to be notified when probate opens

When a loved one passes, many California residents may anticipate receiving something from the estate. You may have had your eye on a particular object that would remind you of your loved one, or you may have expected that he or she left you a considerable portion of the remaining estate due to your relationship.

Of course, it is not unusual for individuals to not fully know what they may receive from loved ones' estates until the disclosure of the information in the decedents' wills. In many cases, beneficiaries wait until the executor of the estate notifies them that probate proceedings have begun and that the court has validated the will. As a potential beneficiary, you may wonder when that notification will occur.

Do you have good reason to challenge a will?

While the majority of wills pass through probate without any problems, there are times when someone steps in to contest this legal document.

If you're interested in challenging a will, it's important to understand the most common reasons for doing so. This will help you decide if it makes sense to proceed.

  • Testamentary capacity: For example, you can challenge the person's testamentary capacity, such as by arguing that they were suffering from dementia or senility at the time of creating their will.
  • Fraud or forgery: You can challenge a will if you're able to prove it was procured by forgery or fraud. A common example is if another person manipulated the deceased into leaving some or all of their property to them.
  • More than one will: Some people make the mistake of creating more than one will, which causes confusion at the time of their death. You may be able to argue that a newer will should trump an older one, putting you in line to receive an inheritance.

Stan Lee's former manager facing multiple elder abuse charges

No matter how wealthy and famous an elderly person is, they can become the victim of financial and other types of elder abuse. In fact, having money often makes people particularly attractive targets. According to authorities, Stan Lee, who created iconic superheroes including Iron Man, Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, was one such victim.

Lee was 95 when he died last November in Los Angeles. His estate is reportedly worth over $50 million.

Most people don't know what they'll inherit from their parents

One potential reason for a will contest is simply that the child does not think the will accurately reflects what their parents owned or what they should get. If you've spent the last decades assuming you'll inherit around $500,000 -- maybe even spending some of that money mentally before you get it -- and then the will leaves you just $25,000, you're likely going to think there's a problem.

This can lead to all sorts of accusations. Did another sibling get more? Did they use undue influence to get it? Is the will a fake? Was an outside party, like a caregiver, involved? Can you contest the will to get that $500,000 that you think you deserve?

Do you suspect an executor has breached his or her duty?

Because an incapacitated or deceased person cannot handle his or her own affairs, someone else is typically in charge of certain matters. For instance, a loved one may have appointed an executor to handle his or her remaining affairs in the event of death. If the chosen person accepts the role of executor, that individual now has a fiduciary duty.

Whether you are the executor or someone else with interest in the estate, it is important to understand fiduciary duty and what it means for someone to breach that duty. In cases of closing an estate, probate litigation could result if an executor breaches his or her duty.

Who's entitled to see a living trust after a loved one dies?

A loved one has passed away. You know they had an estate plan that included a living trust. You believe you were one of the beneficiaries of that trust or they told you that you were. Do you have a right to see it now that they've passed away?

The person who will be settling the trust is the successor trustee. That's the person named to take over as trustee when the initial trustee (the person who established the trust) passes away. The successor trustee will likely be working with the attorney for the estate to ensure that the distributions are made to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust.

How do we recognize undue influence?

There may come a time when you must rely on sanother person's strength to get through some of life's trickier moments. As people age, their dependence on others gradually increases. But with dependence comes an enhanced risk of being subject to another person's undue influence.

  • What is undue influence in California?

Undue influence is a specific class of fraudulent dealing in which the offender has a personal relationship or holds an imbalance of power over the victim. A person who takes unfair advantage of the confidence or dependence that another person has for them is exerting undue influence.

  • How is undue influence different than fraud?

The easiest way to end an estate dispute

Two siblings both say that they should get the same asset when their parents die. The parents do not have a will or did not specify what should be done with that asset in the will.

For instance, perhaps the will mentions their bank accounts, investments, retirement plans and other financial assets, but it does not mention what should be done with the family home. Both siblings want to keep it. They cannot determine what to do with it, and you can't just split up a physical asset. What now?

Why do adult children sue their stepmothers in estate disputes?

Most stepmothers and stepchildren often don't get along, especially the older the child is when the new mom comes into the picture. It shouldn't come as a surprise that as much as 50 percent of estate battles are brought by adult kids against their dad's most recent wife.

The number of estate lawsuits filed by adult children against their stepmothers is significantly higher than those that are filed against stepfathers.

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