When an attorney has practiced law for forty years, representing hundreds of clients, he or she likely has both won and lost cases. It is unusual for clients on both sides to feel they have won! But Clarence (aka Clancy) has often made that happen. Usually the case where both sides feel they have won involves a settlement. In fact, one judge says that even a bad settlement is better than a trial “win.” Trials really cost a great deal, in time, emotional toll and attorney fees.
Clancy says he’s one lucky Irishman! He also believes very strongly that if a case is worth taking, it’s worth investing time and discovery dollars in it. Discovery is a huge factor in winning cases. Discovery is finding out what your opponent is thinking, who his witnesses are, and exactly what he will try to prove. It is hard, often intuitive, work.
Clancy has had a lot more wins than losses. Every time a probate or trust is quickly and economically distributed, it is a win. He has had many hundreds of these. He sometimes works with a beneficiary of a will or trust to allow one of several heirs to “buy” a home from the others. This usually involves him negotiating an agreement between all heirs which overrides the distribution provisions of the will or trust. This allows the buyer to get full financing because he or she already has an undivided fractional interest in the property as one of the beneficiaries. A trust deed loan is arranged for the other 50% to 80% heirs to be cashed out, so that the buyer’s interest is like a down payment.
Sometimes it is a win for the trust not to be distributed, but to remain an undistributed trust with a spendthrift clause. Almost every California trust is drafted with a boilerplate\Spendthrift clause, saying the trust beneficiary cannot sell or encumber his trust interest, nor can a creditor reach it. So if there is a judgment, tax lien against the beneficiary, pending divorce, or the beneficiary is bankrupt or going there, that creditor, taxing authority, divorce opponent, or bankruptcy trustee cannot reach the beneficiary’s trust interest. Usually the judgment, lien or bankruptcy disappears after time, or the beneficiary dies.
- Clancy represented the decedent mother’s daughter. Daughter was mom’s caregiver the last year of mom’s life. Daughter took mom to daughter’s attorney to amend mom’s trust. Daughter took the entire estate against her three unsavory brothers who had theretofore been equal beneficiaries of mom’s trust. The brothers’ contest of the trust amendment was dismissed after they failed to respond to Clancy’s substantial discovery demands. Daughter would have lost this case ordinarily. This is because the law imposes great duties on a caregiver, and presumes that undue influence caused the later estate plan changes.
- Clancy had the court sign an “elisor” deed of a home owned by decedent’s brother, over to grandson beneficiary, Clancy’s client. The brother had been appointed executor/successor trustee by decedent grandmother’s will. The brother failed to produce decedent’s will for probate, failed to respond to discovery, and failed to remit rents to the grandson beneficiary. The brother was removed and Clancy appointed trustee regarding grandmother’s four homes in the trust.
- Where an elderly lady who had lived with decedent, was his partner and real estate joint venturer for over forty years, without marrying him, and both were represented by the same attorney, who also drafted decedent’s will, Clancy got a $250,000 settlement of a malpractice case. As he admitted in his deposition, attorney failed to explain to her the great benefits of marriage, including social security benefits, tax benefits of a marital trust, etc.
- Where decedent married a Chinese lady half his age, and died fifteen months later, Clancy got a settlement in favor of the omitted spouse, the Chinese lady, of half the 3.5 million dollar trust estate decedent had left to his only child, a daughter older than the Chinese lady. Again, discovery played a part in the Settlement.
- Where a divorcing lady disappeared for over five years without explanation and without her body ever being found, the divorcing husband was served by their children in a conservatorship case, and failed to respond, losing over twelve real properties to the conservatorship before hiring Clancy to try to undo the damage. Again Clancy arranged a settlement where the husband got a lifetime interest in the properties, and the children took the properties only after his death. Again discovery and the realization that a bad settlement was better than trial gave both a win.
Read more information on the founder, Clarence W. Finley.