Tuesday, December 18, 2007

War Story No. 1: Brutal Trustee


Two years ago a 47-year-old man called my firm seeking help because his brother was freezing him out of his mother's trust. He was too ill to travel so I reluctantly agreed to make a house call later that evening. Upon arrival I did a double take because his house looked abandoned. The yard was covered with overgrown bushes and weeds, the front gate was hanging sideways, held up by a single hinge, and the paint was faded and chipped. The place was dark and spooky. Remembering the man's plea, I continued walking up the long walkway, instead of back to my car. As I approached the front door, I heard a tired voice say, come on in the door's open. As I entered the dark house, The man directed me to the kitchen table which was illuminated by a single candle. He didn't come too close, and walked slowly following me as I hurried to the table. He sat down across from me. For the first time I got a good look at him. His skin was pale and sunken, his eyes were yellow and he wore old baggy gray clothes and a civil war period mustache. While I was reaching for a notepad he said, "my brother stole my army issue cap-and-ball black power Colt revolver." For a minute it seemed like I was in the presence of a civil war era ghost.
Peter wasn't a ghost, he was a terminally ill man whose passing was being hastened by the disgraceful acts of a greedy brother named Richard. Richard was the trustee of their mother's trust. When peter took ill he was unable to work so moved in with his mother, at her request. A few months later, his mother unexpectedly died. She left a trust that provided for both brothers equally. Richard worked in Japan but returned home for a month to attend his mother's funeral. During that time he ransacked the house and tried to force Peter out. Peter was defenseless. He had no money, no place to go and was preparing to die. Rather than help, which was within his discretion as trustee of the trust, Richard insisted that Peter leave the house. To speed up the process, Richard canceled the utilities and had them specially locked so they could not be turned on without his permission. Within two weeks, Peter was without water, electricity and food. As the trustee of their mother's trust, Richard was suppose to distribute the assets between himself and Peter in equal shares. Although his mother left 75,000 in her savings account and $5,000 in her checking account, and both of those assets were in the trust, Richard refused to give Peter any money. He was waiting for Peter to die so he could inherit it all. According to the trust, if one of the settlor's (mother) sons died before getting his full share of the assets, his remaining share would go to the surviving brother. Richard was trying to take full advantage of that clause. But putting his interests first, is a clear breach of his duties as trustee.
Within two weeks we were able to convince the court to remove Richard, appoint a temporary neutral trustee and obtain a preliminary distribution on Peter's behalf. It wasn't much, but with the money Peter was able to turn on the utilities and get some food and medication. About one month later, Peter was under hospice care. He died two weeks later in his home with the support of a couple of strangers. Richard collected the balance of his mother's trust so I guess you can say he won that battle.

1 comment:

melissaduran777 said...

Something similar has happened to me, my grandmother was dying and my father was appointed trustee/ executor of the estate, and my father Alvin and his brother Earl had to distribute the assets equally,well the trust said if Alvin or Earl dies within 20-30 days before my grandma, (after the amendment of the trust was taking out on April 8th 2013), my father "dies" mysteriously exactly 20 days later!!! The corner did an exam, but NO ONE new about this amendment being taking out on the trust! They looked into murder but didnt know about the trust nor knew about the long fight over this money of my grandmothers for he last 20 years! The coroner said my dad was shot in the head with a colt 375 magnum, his own gun, and supposedly my Uncel didnt hear the gun going off, ever since my father has died, my uncle has been a renegade trustee, telling us if we want my fathers share we have to take him to court, so we are! he is a drug addcit and was only chosen by my grandmother on her will to get a lamp LOL, but since my dad "commiteed suicide" we dont get anything to help pay fro my fathers death, he brags about how good his lawyers are, and I beleive he had some invovlment with the amendment of the trust and my fathers death, we contested the will and waiting for court, were asking for an acoounting of the money and to take him off as trustee, and for our fathers share of 50% Do we have a case?