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Apr 26, 2022 by |

San Mateo County Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Trustee Embezzlement From Elder And Dependent Adult Trusts

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Misappropriation Of Funds By Trustees

Removal And Damages For Beneficiaries

Enhanced Remedies Under Elder And Dependent Adult Abuse Act

While many Californians create trusts to hold their assets, seniors and dependent adults in particular may do so because they can no longer manage their own financial affairs and entrust another (the trustee) to do so.  Unfortunately, some of these appointed trustees may breach their fiduciary duty by embezzling or commingling funds, using trust property for their own benefit, borrowing against trust assets, or losing or mismanaging trust property. Misappropriation of funds may be straight out criminal theft but all acts of self-dealing and mismanagement (whether criminal or not) are grounds for removing a trustee, and seeking damages (known as surcharging) for whatever the trust has lost as a result of the misconduct.  Probate Code §§ 16400-16421, and 17200.  Evans Law Firm, Inc. represent settlors and trust beneficiaries who have suffered injury as a result of a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty.  If you or a loved one has been a victim of a breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee in San Mateo County or elsewhere in California, contact the Evans Law Firm, Inc. today at (415) 441-8669 and we can help.  Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Example of Breach of Trustee Duty[1]

In a recently reported case, an individual got himself appointed as trustee for a wealthy individual who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  According to a complaint filed against the trustee, once he got himself appointed as trustee he arranged for an amendment to the trust and dementia disinheriting the settlor’s only granddaughter and blood relative. The settlor is in a memory care unit where she requires 24/7 care. The family for many years tried to get a straight answer from the truste4e s to what was going on with trust property but never got an answer.  According to court documents now filed to remover the trustee, he strung the family on for years while he was allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from the trust.  Because the trustee had arranged for a trust amendment disinherited the settlor’s only surviving family member, it was hard to get any information, making the process frustrating. They filed a lawsuit to have the granddaughter reinstated in the will and remove the trustee.  The trustee, however, continued to take money out of the trust even after the lawsuit was filed.  Eventually, the family went to the authorities who arrested the trustee who has plead guilty to embezzling at least $9.5 million from the trust.  He is awaiting sentencing.

Removal And Other Remedies

The reported case is an example of criminal conduct by a trustee.  However, whenever a trustee violates his or her civil, fiduciary duty, California law provides a variety of remedies for those who have been injured as a result of a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty, including having the trustee temporarily removed while any case against him or her for breach of duty is pending.  Cal. Probate Code § 15642 et seq. Where the victim of a breach of duty is a senior or dependent adult, additional remedies are available under the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (“Elder Abuse Act”), Welf. & Inst. Code § 15600 et seq.  The abusive trustee, and anyone assisting him or her such as an attorney, may be liable for financial elder abuse as defined under the Elder Abuse Act.  Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 15610.30.  Under that statute, the court awards mandatory attorneys’ fees and costs to the injured senior under certain circumstances. Cal. Welf. & inst. Code § 15657.5. The senior may also be entitled to extra damages in certain instances.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee in San Mateo County or elsewhere in California or, contact Ingrid Evans at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=”mailto:info@evanslaw.com”>info@evanslaw.com</a>. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the reported case.

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