Attorney for Elder Issues

Parent Q&A

  • Hello, 

    I'm looking for a elder abuse lawyer recommendation in the Bay Area. I have a family member who has been taking advantage of my mother financially and I am looking for recommendations on an attorney who has experience dealing with financial elder abuse who can help.

    Thanks so much! 


    Legal Assistance for Seniors in Oakland is supposed to be great - I haven't used them personally, but Albany Senior Center recommends them, and a Berkeley grad who works there came and talked to my MSW cohort and seemed good:

    If you haven't already, I'd make a report to Adult Protective Services just to get it documented.  In Alameda County, they're stretched pretty thin, so it can take some effort to get through, but it's a good way to get some support/suggestions:"Persons interested in obtaining more information or who wish to report adult or elder abuse should call 24 hours a day: 510-577-3500 or toll free at 866-225-5277 (866-CALL-APS). ALL REFERRALS ARE CONFIDENTIAL." (from the website:

    If you're in Contra Costa County, this is the APS contact: (925) 646-2854. (

    Good luck!

    Fiduciary abuse is a reportable offense. Report your observations to Adult Protective Services and let them investigate. If you have proof, provide it. Then go the legal route when the APS investigation is underway. If you want this elder protected,  try to get a trusted person to get the elder to voluntarily sign a durable power of attorney for finances.  If the elder refuses, a capacity hearing could be asked for , but you run a high risk of alienating the elder.

    How do I know about this? I and others watched my cousin emotionally manipulate her 80 year old mother to hand her  money inlump  sums of $50 K at a time. The siblings did everything they could to stop it, but the mother was in her right mind and said "it's my money and I will give it to whomever I want". Soon she will not be able to afford the posh assisted living facility,  but for now, there's nothing they can do short of a capacity hearing/APS.  If either happens the elder has vowed to disown the siblings completely.

    good luck and tread carefully!

    Please consider calling Adult Protective Services (APS) and reporting the allegation of abuse.  They can investigate and make a referral to both the local police and to the district attorney.


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Estate planning/VA Benefits for elders

Jan 2012

Does anyone have recommendations for lawyers specializing in VA Benefits? I've heard that they are a ''different animal'' from Medicare. My dear parents-in-law have been aging at home & are now in their late 80's. My MIL has had dementia for a decade, & my FIL has been valiantly taking care of her with very little outside help. Recently there were health crises for both of them, & we all realized how bad the situation had become without us knowing, & that Mom needs to go into assisted living. They have assets, but with the cost of assisted living/in-home care, their assets could be exhausted in short order. Recommendations, & any other advice, would be welcome! Berkeley daughter-in-law

I am a health advocate with Heartwood Health and we would recommend you contacting Clyde Charlton at 415.485.2200. He is an attorney in San Rafael. Good luck, Dana

I can highly recommend Tova Zeff (510-593-8393 or tovazeff [at] - she's a Berkeley attorney specializing in Probate / Elder Law / VA benefits, and she has lots of experience in these areas. Tova is great because she takes the time to listen to clients, and she's also focused on educating clients as part of her practice. I've been working with her on some legal / contract matters for my business, and she's really been a great resource. Laura

I have a friend who helps with this sort of thing. His name is Thomas Prindiville Higgins and his website is here: His phone number is (408) 590-9790 He's a genuinely nice guy and should be able to assist you. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Lori

Call Tova Zeff. She could help you with her hands tied behind her back. Of course, she doesn't work that way. She's kind, knowledgeable, and effective. And honest. 510-593-8393 MV

Seeking elder law specialist please

Oct 2011

my deadbeat ''co-trustee'' brother has taken money for a third time from my mother's bank accounts. (she has dementia). i've called him on it each time, but he is verbally abusive, entitled and has not paid it back. think it's time to pursue having the court remove him as co-trustee if possible. i would like to keep drama to a minimum (in the interest of family relations...) so i want an attorney who knows their stuff but not neccessarily a pit bull. east bay preferred, thanks! ~tired of being the ethical one alone against the jerk

I'm so sorry this is happening to your mother! Removal of a trustee is not uncommon, and you don't need a ''pit bull'' to accomplish it. In addition, you would be wise to include a claim for financial elder abuse under these circumstances. You have a fiduciary duty to your mother (besides your own personal feelings!) to make sure that your brother doesn't continue to take advantage of her in this way.

I have been successful in this area in the past, so I feel comfortable in saying that you're not necessarily looking for an elder law specialist. Rather, you need an attorney who is experienced with trust litigation in general, and with this sort of claim in particular. There are a fair number of us in the Bay Area -- you may want to look through the BPN archives, or look at the Nolo Press Lawyer Directory (, to find someone who can help you protect your mother and retrieve your peace of mind.

Contact California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. They work on these types of issues all the time. Unfortunately, your situation is very common, especially with a parent with dementia. Their website also has a lot of information:

This is an awful situation, particularly on top of the stresses of dealing with your mother's care. In our case it was not as contentious, but we were faced with getting control of my mother's trust after the sudden onset of dementia and memory loss. We got advice and timely, perceptive help from Berkeley attorney Zachary Epstein. C

Dear Co-trustee You are wise to contact an attorney about the potential malfeasance of your co-trustee; if your brother is taking money from your mother's trust in breach of his ficuciary duty to your mother, that would be malfeasance. Actually, attorneys who call themselves ''elder law'' attorneys often specialize in obtaining MediCal benefits for seniors who need to be admitted to a nursing home.

Often a fiduciary, even a brother, can be persuaded to see the light and do the right thing without a full bore court trial; please contact me if you would like to discuss.

Tova Zeff is articulate, compassionate, and effective. She understands the value of peace in a family. M

Elder Care Executor Needed, asap

Jan 2011

For some years, a close family friend who is an attorney has been serving as my mother's executor, trustee, DPOA and has held her medical directive. However, due to the highly dysfunctional, constantly combative relationship among her children, he has resigned the position. Now, we're looking to find a professional executor/fiduciary/lawyer to assume these responsibilities. We would greatly appreciate any referrals to and comments about appropriate resources, particularly if they are experienced in dealing with fractious families. Many thanks. anon

I encourage you to contact our wonderful estate planning attorney, Paul Hunt. He is very familiar with assisting his clients with their elder care, executor, and fiduciary needs, as well as the creation and execution of trusts and estate plans. He is professional, detail-oriented and has been practicing law for over 20 years. He's done a phenomenal job in meeting all of the complex estate/elder care/trust needs of our family. Contact him at: Paul.hunt [at] Or 510-523-2100 Ondine

We would highly recommend attorney Doris M. Figman in Oakland: 510-622-7787 or 510-848-1168 or dorisfigman [at] She is experienced with trusts, estates, probate, and family law and mediation. Best of luck! Stephanie, Senior Helpers Berkeley

You might check the website of the Professional Fiduciaries Association of California. Kyle

I'm so sorry you are facing this challenge. I recommend you contact attorney Alice Dueker, who has a lot of Elder Law experience, and who works with a clinical social worker to address the kind of family conflict that you seem to be dealing with. They can be reached at adueker [at] or 510-387-7321. Moira

If you are still looking for someone, I would recommend Life Trust Associates. My husband has recently started working there, under professional fiduciary Michael Gardner. Michael is well respected, really patient and very knowledgeable. He has a lot of experience managing trusts and conservatorships, including in situations when family members have disagreed about the care of their loved ones. You can find out more at their website,, and they can be reached at 510-528-3613 or lifetrustassoc [at] Good luck! Laurie

Getting a conservatorship for 95 year old father

Dec 2010

We are thinking of getting a conservatorship for my 95 year old father-in-law. People have been trying to sell him things and take his money. Does anyone know how much this should cost, if you are doing the conservatorship of the person and not the estate. We got an estimate that seemed high.

I recently was on an expert panel regarding geriatric issues with lawyer Linda Durston, PhD, JD. She was very knowledgable in this area and highly recommended by Alta Bates staff who invited her to speak. Her # is 526-1376. Her card says she does estate planning and elder law- e- mail- lsdurston [at] Good Luck. Monica

I am a trust and estate attorney currently training to add conservatorship to my practice. The cost estimate is based primarily on the attorney's hourly rate. Some counties set a maximum hourly rate while other counties, such as Alameda, do not. Thus you can obtain the lowest cost by shopping around to find the perfect balance of low hourly rate with a high level of competency. The process is expensive and can be quite detrimental psychologically to the person who's freedom is severely limited by the conservatorship. Be certain to explore your other options before initiating the conservatorship. kyle

Conservatorship for Mom

August 2010

My 71-year-old mom has been the victim of a Nigerian scam that has promised a huge payout of $$ in return ''for just one more payment'' to cover legal costs of getting that payout. Over the last 2 years later, my mom has managed to lose her car, maxed out numerous credit cards, taken many payday loans, and is now losing her home. She still believes that the money is coming any day and she needs to keep sending some if she wants to get it. Since the FBI can't do anything about this matter, the only alternative is to stop her from sending what little money she has left to the scammers in Nigeria. I've tried to get a psychiatrist to fill out a medical evaluation so that I could apply for conservatorship. However, her doctor refuses. Now that she is losing her house, I've decided to pursue the conservatorship again. I want to manage her social security money so that she can actually pay her living expenses again. Does anyone know of a lawyer who has had experience with this same situation? She lives in Santa Clara County so I guess I would need to seek legal advice from an attorney who practices there. I'm also posting a similar post in the advice BPN. Anon.

I posted a response to this question in on the advice forum, but am replying here as well, in part because the reply stating that nothing can be done without the cooperation of the treating physicians is inaccurate. (I am a physician who specializes in geriatric medicine.)

The California probate code addresses the need for protection if an elder is unable to resist fraud or undue influence. See

A conservatorship is an appropriate solution in your mother's situation. Although it is unfortunate that her doctors were unwilling to assist in the process, it is not very surprising. Many physicians are unfamiliar with the conservatorship process and their role in it, and are reluctant to enter a legal arena in which they lack expertise. There are, however, clinicians who can help, and you should consult with someone with expertise in this area. For instance, Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk of ElderConsult works with the San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensic Center, and is well-versed in issues of financial abuse and competency determination. Her phone is (650) 357-8834, with additional contact information at

An East Bay attorney familiar with conservatorships is Margaret Hand (510) 444-6044. She is a recognized expert in this area, but if she thinks you need someone in Santa Clara county can probably direct you to someone there. She also may have advice on who to consult for a medical exam.

Other resources to know about, for advice and/or referrals are the San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensic Team at 415.355.7002. In Santa Clara County, Adult Protective Services has a Financial Abuse Specialist Team.

They may not be able to intervene in your mothers case, but if you are able to contact them (no info on how to do that on their web page!) they may have advice on local attorneys. ld

Attorney to help with moving parents from East Coast

April 2010

Can anyone give me a recommendation for an Attorney that deals with Elder issues? My mother and father live on the east coast, and they are both frail and deteriorating, and I would like to move them out to the bay area. Where might I get the best advice? Worried son

I highly recommend Sara Diamond, an attorney in Berkeley specializing in elder care law. She was very helpful, smart and kind as we negotiated some challenging issues. Here's her info: Sara Diamond 510-548-4844 sara [at] Janet

My guess is that you will probably need the help of an attorney who lives within the state where your parents are located, not a California attorney. Usually issues like obtaining power of attorney over an elderly person are handled in the state where the person is presently located and therefore require an attorney licensed in that state. anon

Frederick Clarke is an elder law attorney who might be helpful for you in working with your parents. His work is at the intersection of trusts, estates and public benefit law, and he is a experienced and compassionate elder law specialist. He works out of his office in central Berkeley - (510) 649-7948. I hope everything works out well for all. anon

I'd like to highly recommend my good friend Pat Tobin, whose legal specialty is indeed elder issues. You can reach her at pmt1111 [at] She's extremely thoughful and wise. Good luck! Jeanette

Aging parents need to consult with an attorney about wills

October 2009

Need to persuade very aged parents to consult with a lawyer to develop wills. Both are unwilling to face this issue so (1) need advice on moving them to consult with a lawyer and (2) recommendations for a lawyer experienced with older folks in East Bay.
Son at wit's end

I can't help with getting them there, but I recommend Eliot Abrams, 2033 N Main, WC 94596, 925 947 1333. I haven't actually used him, but I took a living trust class with him at Piedmont Adult School and would definitely go to him if I needed legal help in this area. BTW, do explore a living trust as well as a simple will. It will save on probate fees, time, and hassle. I wish you good luck. Linda

Kathleen Hunt drafted my Will and other documents and she made the process incredibly easy. She came to our house and in one meeting handled all of those items efficiently and with thorough care. Potentially sensitive topics were discussed professionally, with various options explained and explored non-judgmentally. Kathleen was always available and quick to respond to any of my questions and concerns before and after our meeting. Kathleen Hunt's contact information is: 510-289-2288 kathleenhunt [at]

I'm very happy to recommend Kathleen Hunt for your parents. She has a private practice in the East Bay and comes to your house to meet with you and discuss your needs. She's very kind, practical and skilled at breaking down confusing legal jargon into regular old English. She helped us with our wills and established trusts for us and was much less expensive than other lawyers we had consulted for the same services. She also came by for free to notarize some extra papers as a follow up to her work. I think she'd be great at helping your parents understand the ins and outs of wills. Her phone is 510-289-2288 and email is kathleenhunt [at] Anne

I can totally understand your situation and frustration. I suggest that you talk to Doris Figman. She is an estate planning and family law attorney who has a lot of experience working with elderly clients. In addition she is a mediator. This enables her to be a really good listener and effective communicator to help clients resolve issues in a positive way. I have referred folks to her and they were happy to work her. You can reach her at 510 622-7787 or dorisfigman [at] Stay positive, Lan

Kathleen Hunt, kathleenhunt [at], was extremely helpful with my aging parents. She is responsive, easy to work with, and came to my folks home to do their estate planning. I recommend her highly. Howard