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Elder Abuse and Disappearing Estates

In many elder abuse cases, the intended beneficiaries of an estate (whether children, spouse, etc.) are shocked to learn that they are to receive nothing from their loved one after they've passed on. The reason? At a certain point before their death, the ailing decedent was unduly influenced by another party to change their will or trust, thereby transferring assets - sometimes a financial necessity - away from the original intended inheritors.

Along with shock and disbelief resulting from what seems like a betrayal, there is also a new mission to pursue recovery. After all, an elder abuser's bad conduct should be punished, not rewarded. With the story of Dr. Richard Grossman and his family, it's probable his children have been experiencing some of the above emotions.

When Dr. Grossman, a renowned innovator in treating burn injuries and founder of the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, died at age 81 in March of last year, his two sons Jeffrey and Peter learned they had been disinherited from their father's estate while his wife of fourteen years, Elizabeth, would take everything. This news flew in the face of what they thought would happen after their father's passing - that they would receive his assets according to the trust he had established for them. Yet unbeknownst to the sons, in January of 2012 Elizabeth took Richard to an attorney and had him change his trust, bequeathing all of Grossman's property, including the family ranch valued at over $20 million, to her.

Elizabeth Grossman and her attorney have said that Dr. Grossman took a neurological exam in March of 2012 and was deemed competent in decision-making. In their suit, however, the Grossman sons assert that their father had been suffering symptoms of dementia since 2010, two years prior to the alteration of his trust. Not only Peter and Jeffrey, who is on the autism spectrum and was depending on the trust, but Grossman's two grandchildren, Alexis and Nicholas, have been disinherited by a decision made in secrecy and under possible undue influence.

Due to some $100 million accumulated in her career on Wall Street, Elizabeth Grossman had no financial motive in reallocating her husband's assets to herself, but other reasons will likely become clear in the discovery phase of the litigation process. In the meantime, Grossman's children have amended their complaint to include charges of not just elder financial abuse, but oppression, fraud, and malice.

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