Courtroom Confessions

Well the courts are open again and I had my first appearance in Downtown LA since the COVID-19 closures. It felt good to be on the freeway (surprisingly) and to see a change of scenery and it even felt good to be in the courtroom again. There was a certain normalcy that I didn’t know I had been missing. While I was waiting for our case to be called, the Judge called another case before me. It was a case of two brothers who were in the middle of a huge dispute over their mother’s estate.  It left me with a heavy heart all the way back home to Long Beach.

The older brother (with his attorney) had brought an emergency action against his younger brother (who did not have a lawyer). The older brother claimed that the younger brother had secretly changed the title to their mom’s two homes by recording the deeds during the Covid closures. The older brother also claimed that there was now no insurance on these two properties and both homes are situated in fire zones. The younger brother admitted that he had changed title to the two homes and that he in fact had not yet insured them. His claim was that the older brother had emptied all of their mom’s bank accounts.

As I was witnessing these two brothers fight, I thought of their poor mother. How sad she would probably feel knowing her two sons were fighting over their family homes. I also thought of my own three sons. I would be devastated if this was my legacy. And I thought about my siblings, and of my parents and their siblings. We have seen it so often in this business: families torn apart by greed. Families not speaking to each other because of the belief that one has slighted the other over money.

What went wrong here? It reminded me how important it is to instill love in our families. It reminded me how I want to teach my sons how important their relationship is. That night at home, I know I over did it when they were arguing again with the “lifting each other up” speech. That one’s success is really multiplied when they have a loved one to share it with. I couldn’t unsee the two arguing brothers in the courtroom. I don’t want that to happen to my sons.

What did the Judge decide? Well, nothing. Since it was an  emergency order he had to give the younger brother an opportunity to formally respond. The Judge set the matter out for 6 weeks. During that time the younger brother was supposed to get insurance for the two homes. Hopefully the properties will stay safe until he does so.

What’s the solution to this story?

Well as moms who want our children to have close relationships, we will continue to try to teach our kids the importance of family love over monetary assets.

As lawyers, we are here to make sure our clients have an estate plan that is drafted to avoid these types of conflict.  We have seen how keeping your loved ones out of court and conflict can be just as important as making sure your assets pass to them outside of probate, and it is part of our mission to help our clients avoid these catastrophic breakdowns of family relationships.