Lafayette Estate Litigation Blog

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.

Elderly financial abuse takes on many forms

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), financial exploitation is the fastest growing type of abuse among disabled adults and elderly individuals.

Their research shows that these individuals are most vulnerable to being financially exploited by people that they trust including bank workers, attorneys, neighbors, pastors, caretakers, friends, doctors and family members.

Is an estate executor refusing to give you information?

Though you were close to your recently-deceased loved one, you may not have felt the desire to handle the final affairs of his or her estate. As a result, when asked about taking on the role of executor, you declined. However, that decision did not completely sever your connection to the remaining estate because your loved one bequeathed assets to you in his or her will.

Now, before you can obtain any inheritance, you must wait until the executor of the estate reaches the asset distribution portion of the probate process. Because you know probate can take a substantial time to complete, you may have utilized your patience and understanding and allowed the executor some breathing room in order to handle the likely-stressful proceedings. However, you may now have other reasons to feel concerned.

The two main sources of undue influence

Undue influence occurs when someone tries to manipulate an elderly person for financial gain. It often focuses on their estate. For instance, someone could emotionally manipulate an elderly person and convince that person to leave them the lion's share of the estate in their will, cutting out other heirs. Such people often target elderly individuals who are suffering from dementia and other issues that make it hard for them to grasp what is going on.

There are two main sources of cases involving undue influence: 51 percent of cases involve complete strangers, while 49 percent of cases involve caregivers, friends or family members.

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