Berk & Moskowitz, P.C.

14220 N. Northsight Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
United States
Phone: (480) 607-7900
Fax: (480) 607-7300

Long term Care of Elderly and the Role of Informal Caregivers

Caregivers and Elder CareEvery family differs in its approach to caring for aging relatives.

Many families look to themselves to provide long term care as their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles (etc.) age.  Indeed, according to statistics from the U.S. government’s Administration on Aging, “families are the major provider of long-term care, but research has shown that caregiving exacts a heavy emotional, physical, and financial toll.”  Caregivers have to juggle conflicting responsibilities and can experience a great deal of stress.  It is reported that nearly half of all caregivers are over the age of 50, “making them more vulnerable to a decline in their own health,” with up to one-third describing themselves as being in fair to poor health.

In light of these, and other, difficulties, it is the unfortunate reality that some families cannot provide long term care for an elderly relative themselves, possibly leaving the relative in a vulnerable or risky position.  Therefore, before family members reach the point of needing long term care or assistance, they should take steps to proactively plan and protect themselves.

If you or someone you know anticipates caring for an elderly or otherwise vulnerable adult, these tips from the Arizona Attorney General (via AARP) may be helpful to pass along. These tips are intended to help prevent abuse or exploitation of those relying on advanced long term care.

First, remember that “ that no one, at any age, should be the victim of violent, abusive, humiliating, or neglectful behavior.”  A few of the “dos” and “don’ts” include the following: [Read more...]

A Not-So-Happy Place on Earth: Walt Disney Family Trust Dispute

Disney Trust DisputeNo one wishes for the kinds of trust dispute and family trouble that one group of siblings from the Disney clan has experienced in recent years. The trust beneficiaries of one of Walt Disney’s daughters have become embroiled in a trust dispute as epic as any storm imagined by the prolific animator.

The story begins with the two daughters of Walt Disney, Diane and Sharon, who both went on to have children of their own. While Diane had seven children total, it is Sharon’s three children who have remained the center of controversy.

Sharon’s three children—the twins, Brad and Michelle, and a daughter, Victoria, whom she adopted with her first husband—each stood to gain a significant portion of their mother’s substantial trust. (This article appearing in The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. approximates the combined value of the Disney trusts today as being $400 million.)

The trust that Sharon Disney created for her children appears to function much like many family trusts do: staggered distributions over several age-milestones, specifically 35, 40, and 45 years of age along with an important caveat basing distribution on the beneficiaries’ money-management skill.

Two main problems have caused complication: the distribution clause and the fact that three separate trustees must all agree in order to make a distribution.

In addition, the objective enormity of the amount held in combined trust does nothing to simplify the tangled legal mess that the trust distribution has become.

Put another way the problems stem from the fact that, “Sharon empowered three trustees—including, at the time, ex-husband Bill and older sister Diane Disney Millerto withhold distributions in the event the children did not demonstrate ‘maturity and financial ability to manage and utilize such funds in a prudent and responsible manner.’”

The distribution clause contains ambiguous language that, as estate dispute attorneys find, is regularly a source of conflict for families, even without several multi-million dollar distributions. [Read more...]

Anti-Deficiency Statute Changes Speculative Homebuilder Shield

Anti-deficiency shield changesThe Southwest real estate and home construction industries continue to undergo fundamental changes.

Some observers of the past year may perceive the altered landscape (no pun intended) as being more reactionary and overly cautious than necessary with normal market fluctuation. Other observers may take a more critical view, suggesting that the changes since 2008 amount to equalizing market imbalances.

In Arizona, that arguable imbalance can look like buyers getting stuck with underwater mortgages and deeds of trust for overvalued property, and sellers reaping the windfall of a sale. The windfall has also shielded sellers and speculative homebuilders from being sued after a foreclosure when there is a gap between what is owed and the foreclosure price.

Not so as of April 2014. Some new changes shift the risk that the value of the property is less than the loan balance.  The new law also clarifies the rules to resolve real estate disputes when the bank backing the mortgage and the borrower/seller lock horns over a deal gone sour.

For loans originated after December 31, 2014, commercial homebuilders will no longer be shielded from liability during a foreclosure where the value of the property covered by the deed of trust is less than the loan balance.  This gap or difference is technically known as a deficiency. [Read more...]

Scottsdale, AZ Fourth of July 2014 at WestWorld

We4th of July  - American flagstWorld in Scottsdale will host a Fourth of July 2014 extravaganza, on Friday, July 4, 2014. Take a break from the Arizona sun and step into the air-conditioned hall, which will be full of indoor theme park games, entertainment zones, live music, and food for the entire family to enjoy.

Family and friends can either start celebrating Independence Day in the afternoon or come in the evening, just in time for Scottsdale’s firework show.

Starting at 2 p.m., the Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center’s North Hall will be full of patriotic fun. The 30,000 sq. feet indoor “Theme Park” will be full of Disney activities, inflatables, archery, football, basketball games, and more. Be sure to check out some former X-Games athletes showing off their moves on a half-pipe and quarter-pipe.

The Mega Play Zone will help bring out your inner-child by having a 35-foot slide, laser tag, obstacle courses, and video games. Compete against friends and family, or have your family be the “Dream Team” that nobody can beat! [Read more...]

Probate Challenges and Estate Litigation – Do Wills Always End Up in Court?

Mesa, AZ Probate Dispute | Probate Dispute Attorney | Berk & Moskowitz, PCFor anyone who has heard the estate planning maxim that failing to plan is planning to fail—and for some families the goal of estate planning is probate-avoidance—there still tends to be some confusion about probate litigation.

First, probate and estate litigation are not the same things as estate administration through probate. Probate “means proving (a Last Will and Testament’s) genuineness in probate court. Unless otherwise provided by statute, a will must be admitted to probate before a court will allow the distribution of a decedent’s property to the heirs according to its terms.”

A Last Will and Testament is supposed to reflect the complete and true wishes of someone in their sound mind who sets forth their wishes for property upon death.

When someone’s wishes are disputed, misunderstood, vague, or otherwise argued over, the probate court hears evidence of the person’s intent.

It is at the point where challenges and disagreements interfere with the court’s ability to administer the will that probate challenge and estate litigation occur. [Read more...]

Arizona Court of Appeals Finds Appraisers Not Liable in Real Estate Disputes

Real Estate Dispute Lawyer | Berk & Moskowitz, PCIn Arizona and throughout the country, the recent Great Recession, which “began with the bursting of an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble,” created a significant dip in the once-booming Scottsdale real estate market.

It also created a steady stream of real estate disputes.

Some homeowners found themselves with overvalued properties and few buyers were willing to pay the asking price. Others found themselves stuck with “underwater mortgages”—where the “balance of the mortgage loan is higher than the fair market value of the property.”

Both kinds of potential sellers found that the real estate market had become a distinctly buyer’s market.

Sellers who recall negotiating real estate during the 2007-2009 period may relate to the consolidated case decided recently by the Arizona Court of Appeals.  The case, which can be found in full here, Southwest Non-Profit Housing Corp. v. Nowak, Et. Al., involves three appraisers who, at different times and with different buyers, appraised residential properties at least $10,000 below the contract price.

In each instance, the sale of the residential property was contingent on the buyer’s ability to secure loans. With each of the three appraisals, the sale predictably failed to materialize due to the lender rejecting loans to the buyers. [Read more...]

Casey Kasem – Fame No Insulation From Elder Law Struggles

Casey Kasem Elder Law | Arizona Elder Abuse Lawyer | Berk & Moskowitz, PC

Casey Kasem is the well-known host of the nationally syndicated countdown show “American Top 40” and for voicing Shaggy in the Saturday morning cartoon franchise “Scooby-Doo.” The iconic disc jockey recently passed away at the age of 82.

Preceding his passing, Mr. Kasem’s family had been in and out of Los Angeles courts, bitterly trying to win conservatorship, assert decision-making rights on his behalf, and ultimately, to ask the court to allow Mr. Kasem to be removed from artificial hydration and feeding.

The public became aware of the acrimony in May when Mr. Kasem temporarily dropped out of sight before finally being found in the state of Washington. Mr. Kasem was living with the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system.

Mr. Kasem’s eldest daughter from his first marriage, Kerri Kasem, requested and was granted temporary conservatorship from a California Superior Court Judge. The status of her father’s health, finances, and potential elder abuse were the basis for granting conservatorship, according to this news article. The hearing revealed a shocking fact—the people left in charge of Mr. Kasem’s safety and welfare claimed to be unsure of his whereabouts.

At the time of the May hearing, there were conflicting reports about whether Mr. Kasem was being deliberately kept away from some of his family, or whether he may be in a location unknown to everyone. Since that time, it has been alleged that Mr. Kasem’s wife, Jean, purposefully removed him from his feeding tube while in nursing care and moved him to Washington in order to evade Kerri and her siblings. Kerri Kasem reportedly will file elder abuse charges based on this and other actions taken by Jean. [Read more...]

Father’s Day in Scottsdale

Father's Day 2014 | Scottsdale, ArizonaFrom changing diapers, to teaching their kids how to ride a bike, to watching them graduate from school, fathers do so much.

That’s why, every year in June, we celebrate dads. This year, Father’s Day lands on Sunday, June 15.

You might have already planned the perfect Father’s Day for your dad. But if you haven’t, Scottsdale has a number of exciting activities that you can share with your dad. (No tie needed!)

If your dad is a foodie, consider taking him to one Scottsdale’s great restaurants.

Open Table has compiled a list of area restaurants offering special Father’s Day meals and deals. One particular gem is Fleming’s Steak House in Scottsdale, which invites you to “Give your Dad our best. Join us for our $39.95 Father’s Day Brunch June 15, from 10:00am to 3pm or enjoy our three-course Prime Rib Dinner for the special price of $39.95.” [Read more...]

AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular Benefits Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts

Summer Wine Spectacular | Scottsdale, AZ | Berk & Moskowitz, PCThe Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular Tasting Event! The wine tasting will take place on Saturday, May 31, at 2:00 p.m..

This wine spectacular features “40 exceptional wines of value, all personally rated and selected by AJ’s Fine Foods cellar masters,” according to event organizers. Along with delectable wines, the event promises to please even the most discerning palate with gourmet treats from AJ’s, including artisan breads, cheeses, shrimp cocktail, sushi, sweets, and more.

No foodie or wine connoisseur will be able to resist this event! [Read more...]

Mickey Rooney’s Family Accused of Elder Abuse, in Court Following Actor’s Death

Mickey Rooney Estate Drama | Probate Litigation Attorney | Scottsdale, AZ | Berk & Moskowitz, PCTo a certain generation, Mickey Rooney evokes memories of Hollywood’s golden years, where going to the movies was a happy, music-filled, and glamorous experience. Classic film fans mourned the loss of an icon after hearing news of Rooney’s passing on April 6, 2014.

Quickly following on the heels of this tragic news, however, was word that Rooney’s extended family was openly feuding about everything from who would claim his body to who should lay claim to his somewhat meager estate. News of his final years also included stories of possible elder abuse by those same relatives.

The years before his death seem to have foreshadowed his final decline. Since 2011, he had fought legal and personal battles, struggling to maintain his dignity.  In that year, Rooney and his attorneys filed a financial elder abuse lawsuit against Chris Aber, his wife’s son from a previous marriage, and Aber’s wife. The lawsuit accused the Abers of robbing Rooney of millions of dollars and of elder abuse. [Read more...]