"We would like to designate you as our expert in the matter of …"

The Bernatz team lives for this moment—to be designated as your expert witness in undue influence, capacity, and elder abuse matters. The Bernatz Expert understands the growing epidemic of financial exploitation of the older adult, or what has been labeled the "Crime of the 21st Century", as over a decade ago we were founding members of the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center and continue to serve as forensic experts.

The Bernatz expert knows the distinction between the different legal standards of “lack of capacity” and “undue influence” often used in contested will, trust, conservatorship, contractual and elder financial abuse matters as we are retained as the consulting and testifying expert in legal challenges and often appointed by the courts to be their expert witness. 

In addition to diminished capacity, another traditional ground for a challenge is Undue Influence. Our experience in this area is unsurpassed as we were on the ground floor in developing a framework that lays out the elements and process of Undue Influence. The Bernatz SCAM™ model (2006) has been used nationwide in matters involving contested wills and trusts.  SCAM™ identifies the same four elements of Undue Influence (www.courts.ca.gov/documents/UndueInfluence.pdf) as found in California’s new probate code (PC § 86) enacted in 2014.

Mental Capacity

An older adult may appear to have a veneer of being cognitively intact however have mental deficits that interfere with their ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of their decisions such as making or changing their will or trust or legal contracts.


Undue Influence

Undue influence doesn’t necessarily go together or hand in hand with an older adult’s lack of mental capacity; one can be unduly influenced while still retaining capacity. The susceptibility of the older adult is central to undue influence, as is the trusting relationship between the older adult and influencer and the use of excessive persuasion and manipulation in procuring the contested documents or transactions… 


Elder Financial Abuse

Elder Financial exploitation—the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets—is an epidemic with society-wide repercussions. The Bernatz Expert provides invaluable expertise with this “silent crime”…