Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mother Caught Embezzling From Handicapped Daughter's Trust

JailLinda Grandel was accused of stealing and spending more than $173,000 from her handicapped daughter's trust fund. Grandel was conservator of trust. She was arrested last week after a full investigation revealed that she had misappropriated funds from her daughter's trust. The funds were established through proceeds from a medical claim because of her child's birth. Grandel's child has cerebral palsy and lives in a group home.

She is being charged for transactions between April 18, 2008 and May 8, 2013 when the courts ordered that the funds not be touched. Any money that Grandel stole before 2008 falls outside of the statute of limitations. 

Some of the funds were used for car and house payments. Grandel claims that she believes that most of the charges were permitted because her daughter often stays with her at the home. However, according to Probate Judge Martin Langrebe only $649 dollars were permitted by the trust, $173,751 was not. 

See John Pirro Brookfield Mom Accused of Looting Daughter's Trust Fund, News Times,  Aug. 13, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 14, 2013 in Current Events, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Conservator Accused of Swindling Disabled Man

GreedMichael Schless, was the longtime conservator of John Fritz's affairs and assets. Fritz is a 64 year old man suffering from cerebral palsy, Schless, a probate court-appointed lawyer, was supposed to be acting in Fritz's best interests by protecting his assets. However, Fritz's estate has been depleted by tens of thousands of dollars because of Schless's false accountings. A probate judge was outraged at the lawyers conduct stating Scheless tried to "hide his transgressions by filing knowingly false accountings." Fritz has not been able to collect his money and officials have Schless under investigation. Fritz denies stealing any funds, but his financial accounting statements seemly prove otherwise. 

See Jon Lender Deceit, Improprieties By Probate 'Conservator' Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds, The Courant Aug. 3, 2013.

August 7, 2013 in Current Events, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Obamacare Covertly Supports Physician Assisted Suicide

Syringe Some experts are taking a closer look at a few interesting clauses in Obamacare legislation, such as secret abortion surcharges and assisted suicide.  There has not been a lot of media coverage on Obamacare's support for physician-assisted suicide. Four states across the nation legally allow physician assisted suicide. In Montana, physician assisted suicide can only be mandated by a court order. However, in Vermont, Washington, and Oregon, the distribution of life-ending drugs is left up to the patient and doctor providing treatment. 

In section 1553 of the Obamacare legislation, if a doctor refuses to assist his terminally ill patient by administering life-ending drugs, federal law protects the doctor. This protection is offered to doctors who may be subject to lawsuits brought by insurance companies because the doctor continued medical treatment despite the patients desire to end his life. In addition, a doctor can preserve their beliefs on the subject of physician-assisted suicide with the protection offered by the legislation. 

"While this section is likely a relief to many opposed to assisted suicide, at the same time it’s also disturbing. The section essentially accepts that the norm is for doctors to prescribe lethal doses of a medication for a patient if he asks for it."

See Michael Cahill, Obamacare's Covert Support of Assisted Suicide, JillStanek.com, Jul. 24, 2013.

July 29, 2013 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Professional Responsibility, Technology | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Probate Judge Assigned To Therrien Case

GavelAs I have previously discussed, in Connecticut, a probate judge wants to remove Candace Bednarz from being the fiduciary in her murdered mother’s estate. The court has already ruled payments to creditors are the only distributions to be made out of the estate. The judge recently found out that Bednarz was arrested by police her for tampering with evidence in her mothers murder prosecution. Brett Bednarz, Candace’s brother, has pending charges against him for killing his mother, Beverly Therrien. 

Recently, probate Judge Michael M. Darby has been assigned to hear proceedings regarding the estate of Beverly Therrien. Former Judge Allan Driscoll, recused himself but has not disclosed the reason for his recusal. Darby had a status meeting Monday to get famaliar with the case. 

See Suzanne Carlson, New Probate Judge Handling Murder Victim's Estate, The Hartford Courant, Jul. 22, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 24, 2013 in Current Events, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dundee's Trustee May Have Breached Duty of Care

DundeeA trustee still owes a duty of care to the beneficiaries when delegating the power of investment. Australian trustees have a duty to invest cash held in trust. However, sometimes a trustee can do a poor job at investing trust funds. Crocodile Dundee's trustee did just that. Dundee's estate was missing $34 million from a Swiss account. The trustee had transferred the missing money to an investment manager who kept the trust funds in a bank account in Switzerland. Details about what exactly happened to the money are still unknown. By law investments are supposed to conform to the trust deed or the governing statute. Additionally, trustees should consider the beneficiaries and any other legal ramifications such as tax liabilities when investing. Double checking the decision with a financial advisor could help make sure that they are executing a prudent investment strategy and provide a check on the investor. 

See Bernadette Carey, Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia: Trustees Must Take Care Investing Trust Funds: A From the Life of Crocodile Dundee, Mondaq, Jul. 9, 2013.

July 18, 2013 in Current Events, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Caretaker Arrested for Fraud

JailAnthony Kehle was arrested for fraud. He was booked at Palm Beach County Jail. Kehle left his Alzheimer's patient alone for days and embezzling more than $94,000 of his patients money. As a result of Kehle's actions, the patient, who was a disabled man was evicted from his house.   

See Brittany Shammas, Caretaker Accused of Spending $94 Elderly, Disabled Man's Savings , Sun Sentinel, Jul. 9, 2013.

July 15, 2013 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Evaluating the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

SsrnSamantha Haworth (Law Review, Universty of Miami ) has recently published an article entitled, Laying Your Online Self to Rest: Evaluationg the Uniform Fiduciary Access to DIgital Assets Act, (February 17, 2012) University of Miami Law Review, Forthcoming. Provided below is the introduction to the article:

Handling digital assets after death presents numerous practical, legal, and moral problems. The Uniform Law Commission, which produces the Uniform Probate Code and numerous other Model and Uniform laws, has released a discussion draft of a Proposed Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act to address the disposition of digital assets at death. This note will examine this Uniform Act and the problems it seeks to solve. Part I explores the different types of digital assets and how courts are dealing with these assets in multiple types of litigation. Part II discusses the legislative solutions currently in place and under construction for handling digital assets at death. Part III analyzes the Proposed Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act and discuss its innovations and shortfalls. Part IV analyzes what types of control fiduciaries should be allowed to exercise over digital assets. This Note concludes with recommendations on how to best improve the Uniform Act.

July 15, 2013 in Articles, Professional Responsibility, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pa$$w0rDs 4 Fiduciari3s

PasswordChoosing a strong password can be hard. Microsoft recommends using a different password for each individual account a user has. Keeping track of all of the different passwords can be a pain, but here are a couple of options that might help.

Writing a list is easy and inexpensive, but if the list falls into the wrong hands problems may arise. There are several software tools that can be installed on either your phone or computer that help people keep track of their passwords and other important estate planning documents. The following is a short list of these software examples: LastPass, 1Password, and KeePass. Some of these programs have an app for designated fiduciaries to gain access of all of the passwords after the users death. These programs can also store legal documents such as wills, trusts, and health care directives. Those not using any of these software programs might want to consider to leaving detailed instructions to help an executor or guardian manage or distribute your assets. 

See Jim Lamm, Tips From Security Experts on Choosing and Storing Passwords, Digital Passing, Jul. 11, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 13, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Executor Gone Rogue

GreedGregorgy Carlson from White Bear Lake was charged with theft. Carlson was the executor to his father's estate, but instead of administering the estate according to the will he liquidated all of his father's assets and kept the money. The estate had an upward value of $200,000 with $143,000 distributed to Carlson's two siblings. The brothers petitioned the court to probate the will and appoint a new executor and an accounting of the estates assets. The court ordered that the money be deposited to the court or verified by a bank, but Carlson has not complied with the order yet.

See Nicole Norefleet, Charges: White Bear Lake Brother Kept Father's Assets for Himself, Star Tribune, Jul. 8, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 12, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Clark's Family Members Contest Her Will

ClarkAs I have previously discussed, heiress, Huguette Clark, died Tuesday, May 24, at the age of 104. Clark was the daughter of William Andrews Clark, a business man who had made a fortune in mining. Clark’s will was filed with a Manhattan court, allowing the world to see where Clark’s estimated $400 million estate will go. Shortly after the will was filed for probate a suit was filed in court by Huguette Clark's relatives alleging that the hospital that treated Clark was scheming to take money from Clark's $300 million dollar estate. 

The court paperwork submitted by Clark's family indicated that Clark's attorney was conspiring with her accountant to get clark to sign over millions. Reports allege it took five minutes to cut Clark's family out and get Clark to sign the will. Following the change in beneficiary the attorney and accountant went to celebrated at a pub.The attorney's assistant claims that Clark " mumbled something incoherent" right before she signed the document. The prior will signed in March of 2005 left the majority of the estate to Clark's relatives and a small portion to her personal nurse. 

See Jeane Macintosh and Julia Marsh, Kin of Heiress Huguette Clark Say She was Incoherent and Unwell at Time of Will Signing, New York Post, Jul. 8, 2013.

July 11, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)