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Fighting for Your Legacy: Your One Chance to Protect a Bay Area Trust or Will

If you have been disinherited, or your inheritance has been stolen from you in some way, you have just one chance to fight for your legacy. But not fighting is also an option, it all depends on what you want to do.

A few years ago, a client told me that he wanted to fight against the wrongful actions of the Trustee because the Trust assets represented his parents’ legacy. And this would be his only chance to preserve and protect that legacy for him, his children, and his grandchildren. I have to admit that I never thought of it that way before he said that. But it makes sense. People spend a lifetime working hard and accumulating assets and wealth; not because they want to brag about it usually, but because they want to have a nest egg for themselves and to pass on to their children and grandchildren. And when someone comes along (whether it be a bad Trustee, a wrongdoer who unduly influences an elder, or even financial elder abuse) that legacy is jeopardized.

In our legal system, the only way to enforce your rights is to take your matter to court and seek a court order restoring what is rightfully yours. But court takes time, money, and a emotional toll. As you might imagine, most wrongdoers do not simply lie down and take responsibility—they fight back. They honestly believe (even though it may be wrong) that what they did was right and reflects the decedent’s “true” intent. And in our court system (under our Constitutional right to due process) a judge can only make a forced decision after an evidentiary trial takes place. And with the recent severe budget cuts in California, trials are a rare thing. It takes too much time to get to trial, and there is too much game-playing leading up to trial. That all increases the costs and creates a very stressful experience that takes an emotional toll on the parties.

For this reason, a vast majority of civil cases settle before trial. But even to get a decent settlement, you usually have to go through the court process for some time. Only once the parties are feeling the pain of the court process does settlement become more likely. And if you are never given a fair settlement offer, then you have no choice but to proceed to trial.

But the good news is you do not have to go through any of this if you do not want to do so. The court process is voluntary, no one will force you to sue. Of course, that means you have to accept whatever result occurs in your Trust or Will matter without asserting your rights. You may end up with less or even nothing. But that could be better than investing the time, money, and emotion into a long, drawn out court process.

In the end it is up to you to decide. But be forewarned, you only have one chance to stand up for your legacy. You must choose to either assert your rights or not—it is up to you.