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Recent Cases

Recent Cases

Enforcing the Trust Terms.

This case involved defending gifts made to our client in his mother’s trust and outside of her trust. The challenging of alleged deeds giving away a shopping center to one family member versus all of family sharing the shopping center.

The Conservator with Sticky Fingers.

This case was dealing with the mismanagement of a conservatorship estate. The conservatee money was embezzled by the conservator and Petitioner was an heir to the conservatee’s estate. Our firm was able to recover the wrongfully taken assets plus recovered attorney fees and costs.

Another case of Successful Trustee Defense.

This was a case between two sisters who did not get along. Opposing counsel and I were able to resolve the matter in a long mediation session with the parties and bring a resolution to this matter without the need for a highly litigated Court battle.

Successful Trustee Defense

In this case, our client had done an outstanding job acting as trustee for her mother. The case was settled without any damages against our client.

“Mom” liked me Best.

This is a case wherein the respondent thought he could get away taking his disabled mother’s house by way of quit claim deed and his sister would be able to do nothing about it. He was wrong on both counts.

“Mother” really wanted to change the Trust.

This was a case wherein the Settlor’s daughter was the mastermind behind getting the trust changed to benefit herself and her brother. The Settlor was also 95 years old at the time of the change and suffering from cancer, and the attorney’s records revealed he never even met or spoke with the Settlor before or after the new amendment was executed.

Where there is a Will there is a Contest.

In this case the Decedent’s mother co-signed the original mortgage to purchase the house and her name was placed on title. The Decedent paid the house off after ten years, but never removed his mother’s name from title. The son predeceased his mother but left a Will leaving the house to his friends. His mother said it was his house and signed a declaration to that fact, but then unexpectedly died as well. Another son was trying to claim the house and after a three day bench trial the Court found in the Pedder’s firm client’s favor.

The Trustee Not Distributing the Trust.

This case was challenging the family bully who was withholding my client’s inheritance hoping she would die first and not have to pay her sister. The Respondent felt she had done nothing wrong with her actions of living in the trust property well below market rent and not distributing the trust assets. Our firm was able to get our client her full share plus attorney fees and costs after trial.

Estate of Fred Morris, Alameda County Superior Court

This case was tried before the Honorable Yolanda N. Northridge. Matthew Toth of Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, represented the Contestant. Michael Dougherty of Oakland represented the Respondent.

This was a Will contest case, wherein the Decedent wrote a Will with the aid of his attorney in 1997, leaving his entire estate to one of his five children. Then in 1998 the Decedent contacted his attorney and had his attorney write a new Will splitting his estate between the one son and his girlfriend and destroyed the valid 1997 Will. However, for some reason, the Decedent did not go to the attorney’s office to execute the 1998 Will, but instead mailed it to him. The Decedent failed to have the ’98 Will properly witnessed. Then in 1999 the Decedent once again contacted his attorney to change his Will again, this time removing the girlfriend and replacing her with Contestant (another son). Again the Decedent did not go to the attorney’s office and only had the attorney advise him on how to make the change by letter, which the Decedent did do on the ’98 Will reflecting his final wishes. This was the last time the Decedent had contact with his attorney.

The deciding issue on the case was does the doctrine of Dependent Relative Revocation apply to revive the ’97 Will. Judge Northridge held the doctrine did not apply, as the “Wills” were substantially different enough that the doctrine did not apply and that the Decedent’s estate was to pass by intestate succession, in favor of the Pedder firm’s client.

Robinson v. Robinson

This case was tried before the Honorable Nancy Davis Stark. Stan Pedder of Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, represented Respondent Scott Robinson. Oakland’s Larry E. Lulofs and Herman A. Trutner represented Petitioner Brian Robinson.

In August 2004, an 84-year old blind woman who was in poor health and resided in a care facility, executed a Will leaving her estate equally to her four sons. In 2006, still in very poor health, she executed a new Will, eliminating one of her sons. The attorney who prepared the original Will had retired. The second Will was actually prepared by one of her sons (you guessed it, not by the one who was eliminated.) At any rate, mom passed away in 2006. The “eliminated” son contested the Will, arguing that mom was incompetent at the time of execution of the second Will, and was under the influence of the son who prepared and arranged for the execution of the second Will.

Under the circumstances, there was a legal presumption that the second Will was invalid. After four days of trial, the new Will (second) was determined to be valid, in favor of the Pedder firm’s client.

Estate of Irene O. Sparkman, Alameda Superior Court

This case was tried before the Honorable David Lee. Stanley Pedder of Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, tried this out-of-county (Alameda) case.

Sparkman died, leaving a copy of a formal Will with her original signature but unwitnessed. She left the bulk of her estate ($1.3 Million) to her granddaughters. Her daughter filed for Letters of Administration, claiming there was no Will, and therefore she should take the entire estate.

The whole family then got together in an attempt to settle. A settlement was reached, then repudiated by (you guessed it) the daughter. At trial, the court ordered the settlement agreement enforced which was favorable to the Pedder firm’s client.

One interesting note: At trial, a nephew testified that the daughter (yes, the same one) had given him the keys to Sparkman’s home and safe and that he had found a Will signed by Sparkman and two witnesses. He was told to destroy the Will and did.

In the Matter of the Cherida Jackson Trust, Los Angeles County Superior Court

Stan Pedder and Tim Walker of Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, represented the Plaintiff. The Defendant, Children’s Hospital, was represented by Robert Rosenberg of Oakland.

In a bit of convoluted factual history, Baby Love was born severely handicapped, allegedly by the negligence of hospital “x.” (Hospital x was unrelated to the Defendant Children’s Hospital in this case.) The parents were unable to care for the baby, so the baby was placed in foster care. On behalf of Baby Love, an action was brought against hospital x. A substantial judgment was obtained for Baby Love. In 1989, an Alameda County court placed the recovered funds in a special needs trust, with the proviso that any balance of funds left in the trust at the death of Baby Love would to go Children’s Hospital (again unrelated to hospital x.) When Baby Love was 19 years of age, “P” adopted Love. Love then died at the age of 23, with a substantial amount of money still remaining in the trust. Defendant Children’s Hospital requested the remaining funds. “P” objected.

In a decision in the Los Angeles probate court, “P” prevailed and received all the remaining funds. The 19-year old decision of the Alameda County court was overruled. The decision was based on Sisco v. Cosgrove and California Probate Code §6100. The Los Angeles court held that a minor cannot make a Will, and the Alameda County court had no authority to create or authorize the creation of such a Will for a minor. Since “P” (the Pedder firm’s client) was the parent by reason of adoption, she took the assets remaining in the estate using the laws of intestate succession.