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The 8 stages of Trust and Estate Litigation

August 23rd, 2017

Most of our clients have never been involved in a lawsuit, so when we represent new clients in litigation we inform them of what to expect throughout the case. Each case is unique, but the observation of one of our colleagues about trust and estate litigation seems generally true. “Litigation is like remodeling your kitchen:…

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Arbitrations v. Class Actions

August 22nd, 2017

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently finalized a controversial rule that prohibits financial-service companies from including arbitration clauses in their contracts with consumers that block those consumers from joining class action lawsuits. The rule stops short of prohibiting all arbitration clauses. According to the CFPB, “the new rule will deter wrongdoing by restoring consumers’ right…

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FINRA Increased 2016 Operating Revenue With Record Fines

August 18th, 2017

Investment News reported last week that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) operating revenue decreased while its income from fines nearly doubled in 2016. FINRA made up for a 6% decrease in operating revenue with $173.6 million in income from fines, up from $93.8 million in 2015. FINRA’s members are understandably concerned by these increasing…

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Two Problems with Trump’s Estate Tax Proposal: Reconciliation and Carryover Basis

July 25th, 2017

In April, President Trump proposed a tax plan that, among other cuts, eliminates the estate tax altogether.  The current federal estate tax is 40% on estates exceeding $5.49 million.  While ending the tax might seem beneficial at face value, it could have serious implications for estate planning and end-of-life decision making.  There are two problems…

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Salvador Dalí

July 7th, 2017

This week the Telegraph reported that Salvador Dalí’s body will be exhumed as part of a lawsuit involving his purported illegitimate daughter and her claim to his estate.  Pilar Abel Martínez, a psychic fortune-teller and resident of Dalí’s hometown, Figueres, Spain, has claimed since 2007 that she is the artist’s forgotten daughter.  According to Ms….

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The Limited Effectiveness of “No Contest” Clauses in California Trust & Estate Litigation

June 12th, 2017

One of the biggest misconceptions in California trust litigation concerns the effectiveness of no contest clauses.  This article explains no contest clauses and their limited effectiveness in California trust and estate litigation. _________________ A “no contest clause,” according to California Probate Code section 21310(c), is “a provision in an otherwise valid instrument that, if enforced, would…

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Recent Increases in Margin Debt Foreshadow a Rise in Securities Litigation

April 26th, 2017

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the use of margin debt has increased substantially with the recent run-up of the equity markets following the Trump presidential election.  Traditionally, margin refers to borrowing money from a broker to purchase stock or other securities.  More broadly, it is a reference to any borrowing associated with securities…

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Butler v. LeBouef

May 5th, 2017

The ominous opening sentences of the court’s opinion in Butler v. LeBouef (2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 480) foreshadow a case study in how an unscrupulous estate planning attorney can influence and manipulate an elderly and infirm client. “An ethical estate planning attorney will plan for his client, not for himself. A license to practice law…

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Three Ways to Get Disinherited

March 29th, 2017

As trust and estate litigation attorneys, we have been involved in many will and trust contests in which parents have disinherited one or more of their children.  As estate planners, our experience is that children are usually disinherited because they are estranged or have a persistent drug or alcohol problem.  In these circumstances, the disinheritance…

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FINRA’s Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter Highlights High-Risk Brokers

February 21st, 2017

Every year, FINRA publishes its Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter to help its members understand where FINRA intends to focus its reviews during the coming year.  The letter is a must-read for FINRA members, compliance personal, supervisors, and those who provide advice about regulatory exams and related litigation. Among the issues discussed in the…

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Tax Changes 2017

February 21st, 2017

The start of a new year is a good time to consider upcoming changes in the tax laws that may affect your estate planning in 2017. The federal estate tax exemption is increasing slightly in 2017.  Estates of individual decedents who pass away in 2017 will be exempt from federal estate taxes up to $5,490,000,…

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NFL Players Sacked by Investment Fraud

February 21st, 2017

On October 23, 2016, CBS’s 60 Minutes ran an informative piece on investment fraud suffered by current and former NFL players at the hands of a financial advisor.  According to 60 Minutes, the players invested a total of $51 million in a gambling development in Alabama called Country Crossing.  Country Crossing was designed to lure…

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529 Plan

February 21st, 2017

Families with college bound children face the hurdle of paying for tuition, books, room and board, and other expenses.  While there are many savings options, one of the most popular is the “529 plan.”  This article discusses 529 plans and how they can help with estate planning and saving for college. A 529 plan is…

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FINRA Proposes New Rules Designed To Protect Elderly Investors

February 21st, 2017

The Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA) has recently submitted to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission a rule change proposal designed to provide more protection for elderly investors. As recently reported by the Investment News, the new rules modify FINRA’s rules that require its members to maintain the confidentiality of their customer’s financial information.  According to FINRA, the new rules are…

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Regulators Crackdown On RIAs Employing Advisors Previously Barred By FINRA

February 20th, 2017

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversees broker-dealers and their licensed registered representatives.  FINRA rules surrounding U-4 and U-5 filings require FINRA members to report customer complaints, regulatory investigations and, under some circumstances, conduct outside of the workplace.  FINRA mandated reporting provides important information primarily to three constituencies:  (1) investors who seek information about their investment advisors; (2) prospective employers…

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Probate Code 15305: Support Creditor’s Claim Against a Spendthrift Trust

February 21st, 2017

Many California living trusts contain a “spendthrift clause”— a clause designed to protect trust assets from claims made by a beneficiary’s creditors.  Spendthrift provisions commonly include a “shutdown clause,” which stops payments to a beneficiary during any time that the trust could be subject to creditors’ claims.  A recent decision held that under California Probate…

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Exclusion of Expert Report That Exceeds Scope of Evidence Code §730 Appointment

February 21st, 2017

This article discusses three ways to attack the report of an Evidence Code §730 expert when the expert’s report goes beyond the scope of the expert’s §730 appointment. California probate court judges frequently appoint “730 experts” in conservatorship and trust proceedings.  A 730 expert is an expert appointed by the court under California Evidence Code…

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Mental Capacity: A Double-Edged Sword (Cont.)

February 21st, 2017

In early June, we published an article outlining the legal case of Mr. Redstone, age 93, who owns about 80 percent of CBS and Viacom—reportedly a $40 billion media empire.  In that article, we described how mental capacity claims can be a double-edged sword, with contradicting claims being made by his business partner, Mr. Dauman,…

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