A TRUST CONTEST PROSECUTED IN ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
The defendant (daughter of the decedent) was charged with having obtained a trust amendment from her mother by means of undue influence. The defendant was also sued for having procured a bank account improperly from the elderly mother, which said procurement constituted financial elder abuse.
Ms. Lawrence represented the decedent’s other three children who sought to overturn the trust amendment, to reverse the transfer of decedent’s funds to the defendant, double damages for the wrongful transfer, and punitive damages for the elder abuse. After a six day trial, the court ruled in plaintiffs’ favor, and awarded all of the relief sought as described above.
Due to the magnitude of the award against the defendant, her inheritance from the decedent was entirely consumed, and the whole of the decedent’s estate passed to the plaintiffs, the other children of the decedent.
A DEED REFORMATION ACTION AND ATTORNEY MALPRACTICE COMPANION CASE PROSECUTED IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
Plaintiff sought the reformation of two deeds that had been negligently prepared by an attorney with the result that, on their face, gave interests in real property to the grantor’s spouse, when in fact the grantor intended no such transfers.
Ms. Lawrence was able to successfully litigate the deed reformation action to settlement without need for trial, with a result that was 100% favorable to the plaintiff, and which included no element of compromise.
Ms. Lawrence also prosecuted a malpractice claim against the attorney who had negligently prepared the deeds, and was able to secure a settlement for the plaintiffs that offset the attorney’s fees attributable to the deed reformation action.
A TRUST CONTEST AND FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE ACTION PROSECUTED IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT (PALM SPRINGS)
Representing a non-profit organization who should have been the recipient of a testamentary bequest, Ms. Lawrence prosecuted a trust amendment contest and a financial elder abuse case against the defendant who allegedly made a practice of targeting vulnerable, lonely elders and wrongfully procuring their estates. A vigorous investigation was pursued in three states that resulted in the discovery of evidence that the defendant had targeted at least five elders, and procured their estates. After a lengthy mediation, the case settled on terms favorable to the plaintiff.
AN INHERITANCE CASE DEFENDED IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
Ms. Lawrence defended the extended family of a man who died without a will, or other estate plan, against the claims of two men who said they were the decedent’s natural sons. The sons claimed that the decedent had acknowledged them as his sons and hence they, and not the extended family, were entitled to inherit.
Ms. Lawrence successfully defeated their efforts to establish kinship through DNA evidence because kinship, and nothing more, does not entitle a child to inherit in the absence of acknowledgment of the child by the parent.
Ms. Lawrence conducted an investigation through World War II merchant marine ship records to establish the whereabouts of the claimants’ mother’s husband at the times of their conception, including searching the archives of the U.S. Navy dating from the 1940’s.
Ms. Lawrence established that the husband of the claimants’ mother was in port at times when each of the claimants could have been conceived. Given that evidence, the law presumes that the sons are the sons of their mother’s husband, and hence they could not inherit as the sons of another man. The case was won on summary judgment, meaning the defendants won without having had to proceed to trial.
A WILL CONTEST PROSECUTED IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
Ms. Lawrence represented a woman who sued to enforce an agreement between her mother and her stepfather that upon the death of both the mother and stepfather, the couple’s duplex in San Francisco would pass to the daughter.
The stepfather was blind. After the mother died, the stepfather’s niece had taken him to a lawyer who prepared a new will that did not comply with the agreement.
Ms. Lawrence located the attorney who prepared the new will, and obtained his file. The file contained vital evidence that supported the daughter’s claim that, indeed, an agreement existed.
Ms. Lawrence took the case through an eight day trial that resulted in total vindication for the daughter. The daughter enforced the contract and inherited the property.
A CREDITOR’S CLAIM ACTION PROSECUTED IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
Ms. Lawrence represented a woman whose long term boyfriend died in an accident at his ranch in northern California. The decedent died without a will.
The decedent had always promised his girlfriend that he would leave his estate to her. However, following his death, it came out that he was leading a double life. He had a second long term relationship with another woman, and he had made the same promise to the other girlfriend, to leave his estate to her.
Ms. Lawrence’s client had done substantial work to improve the decedent’s ranch, so Ms. Lawrence filed a creditor’s claim seeking payment from the estate to her client in compensation. Ms. Lawrence also included a fraud claim against the decedent, and sought punitive damages. The claim equaled almost the entire estate.
The second girlfriend also filed a claim, but it sought only a very modest amount. Ms. Lawrence settled the case by allowing the second girlfriend to have the small amount she claimed. Ms. Lawrence settled the rest of the case with the decedent’s heirs at law, with the heirs at law taking 25% of the estate, and Ms. Lawrence’s client taking 75% of the estate.
A TRUST CONTEST DEFENDED IN CONTRA COSTA SUPERIOR COURT
Ms. Lawrence represented the nephew of a decedent who left the bulk of his estate to the nephew. The other nieces and nephews of the decedent sued, claiming that the nephew had exerted undue influence, and that the decedent lacked capacity.
Following a 12 day trial in Contra Costa County, the judge found in favor of the nephew, and the estate plan was upheld.
A TRUST CONTEST DEFENDED IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT
Ms. Lawrence’s client was a young woman who had always had a good relationship with her widowed father—however since her husband’s work took them to the Midwest, she seldom saw her father who remained in San Francisco.
After a long estrangement, the client’s brother came back into the father’s life, and sought to take over the old gentleman. At the son’s urging, the father filed suit against the daughter, claiming that an item of real property that the father and daughter bought jointly, in fact belonged solely to the father.
The father quickly settled the suit, but never complied with the terms of the settlement. One year later, the father sued again, on all the same claims. Ms. Lawrence succeeded in having the suit dismissed on summary judgment.
The father sued for a third time the day after the second suit was dismissed, on all the same claims, but this third time the father also sued the client’s husband (who had no claim to the property).
Ms. Lawrence prepared the case for trial. On the first day of trial the case was sent out for mediation. Following fully three weeks of mediation, a court supervised settlement was achieved, and the court retained jurisdiction to supervise the settlement and enforce it, so that this third and final time the case would indeed be fully and finally resolved. The client’s ownership interest in the property was confirmed, and the father’s claims were dismissed.