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.