Husband Tries To Cheat Wife Out Of Millions By Using His Own Separate Trust
Given the conduct of his father-in-law over his 62-year marriage and most recently the way he acted in the last couple of years of his life, attorney Jeff Kane knew his mother-in-law’s case could not be resolved with just any Probate or Trust attorney. He needed someone who specialized in litigation. “A mistake could end up costing you a lot of money and even more than that, it might cost you the sense of justice that is so important to some people. I knew that my mother-in-law, because of her age, would have ended up accepting far less than what she should have expected.”
Pat and Joe married when they were both just 18 years old. They had been married for over 60 years when Joe passed away. During the course of their marriage they had five children together. Pat and Joe started out with nothing, but as Joe was promoted through the ranks fo the beverage industry they began purchasing rental properties in the Huntington Beach area of California in the early 1970’s.
This wasn’t your typical marriage. 30 years prior to his death, Joe left Pat to “see the world”, but he continued to utilize Pat to collect rents, pay business expenses, provide bookkeeping and tax preparation and even enlisted her help to set up a new business. A strong Catholic, Pat believed that getting a divorce was not the right thing to do. “She continued to do all of the things that a wife would do for a husband with the exception of living with him and enjoying the money that they created together,” stated Jeff. At the time of his death, Joe’s estate was worth several million dollars.
As the years went on, Joe provided Pat with a monthly stipend of $1,000-2,000. However, just two weeks prior to his death, he asked Pat to sign a document that said she agreed to receive nothing when he died – not even the small stipend he had been paying her. In addition, he had revised his trust to state that should Pat make any attempt to seek money from him or his trust, all of their children and grandchildren would be disinherited and would receive nothing. When Pat refused to sign the document, Joe attempted to protect himself by revising his trust to include a no-contest clause. Fortunately for Pat, 10 days prior to the amended trust being drafted, the laws in California had been changed and Joe’s intended no-contest clause no longer provided his trust the protection he thought it did.
“I knew there were instructions in place for Joe’s trust to defend itself against attacks from the very people who were seeking to attack it. A lot of the facts of this case dated back to 1950. My mother-in-law was very pessimistic about her chances. She’s 80 years old, very proud and very private, and she was reluctant to lay out for the world to see all of the facts and personal details of her life with Joe,” Jeff shared.
“Scott took a strong personal interest in the case. He took on some of the anger that we felt having watched this man over a period of 25 years coerce Pat into signing over deeds to these properties that they owned together with no consideration going her way at all.” Joe in turn took the money from the sale of the properties and bought more properties, putting them in his name only. “Joe was despicable. After devoting huge amounts of time learning the intricacies of this case, Scott was absolutely appalled at the conduct of this guy and how he could take advantage of a woman who did nothing but loyally serve him for sixty years. I think that gave her strength. “
“I sit in court a lot and see these attorneys mosey up to the podium, and I’m actually embarrassed for my profession sometimes,” said Jeff. “That’s not Scott. He is very well put together. He has a presence about him, he is a forceful speaker, has a very strong way with words and excellent delivery. That goes a long way. It’s not always what you say, but it’s how you say it. When we were in court or depositions, we always felt we had the better attorney. And that means something because there’s a lot of worrying that goes on in these types of cases. Not only is there a lot of money at stake, but many of the people embroiled in these cases are looking for justice after being mistreated or taken advantage of. I know in the minds of many that justice equals money, but in this particular case justice had a huge moral and ethical component to it as well.”
The Grossman Law Firm was able to settle Pat’s case in 17 months, resulting in Pat being awarded half of Joe’s $7.7 million dollar estate. In addition, the Trust agreed as part of the settlement to not attempt to invoke the no-contest clause, and to instead allow all of the children and grandchildren of the marriage to remain beneficiaries. Jeff shared how important this was to Pat’s family, “Pat was in poor health with very little fight left in her. Had Joe’s attempts to disinherit Pat been allowed to stand, it would have been the final indignity for her, the final insult. She would probably be dead now. Instead, I now see her now holding her chin up and acting very proud that she finally stood up to Joe. Scott was able to bring her a decisive measure of justice and provide her some dignity in that she was able to stand up in a legal forum and say, ‘No. This is not right. I’m going to tell everybody what this man did to me over the course of a 60 year marriage and let them determine if this is right.’ Joe was Pat’s husband and he took advantage of what Pat believed was a mutual trust and loyalty. When the other side buckled under and paid up, it was vindication for her.”
Jeff was especially grateful that Scott accepted the case on a contingency basis so his mother-in-law would not have the financial burden of legal fees to worry about. “Scott was willing to take on that burden because he believed in Pat and her case. That was instrumental. Pat was down to her last few thousand dollars and could not have afforded a vigorous challenge to such a well-financed Trust. Scott never stopped working for her. Long after it was a certainty and much of the money had already been received, Scott pushed for that last $5,000 or $10,000 even though his interest in those final dollars was minimal.” He did so because he recognizes that right is right.
“Now I have a mother-in-law who has more energy. She is proud of herself. She has no financial worries. She is able to do things for her kids and grandchildren that she would have never been able to do. This December Pat is taking her entire family of 40 people on a weeklong Disney cruise! Her whole demeanor has been brightened. What I find very refreshing is that Scott took a strong personal interest in the case and got angry with Pat and for Pat. He believed in her case even though, on its face, the law seemed to be positioned against her. When you’ve got an attorney that feels as righteous as his client does, that’s a good combination. Sometimes people who are under-represented don’t get justice. They get whatever justice their attorney feels they should get. In a state with over 150,000 attorneys, who you hire makes a big difference.”