A recent Brookings Institution study estimated that one out of every ten people in the United States is not fluent in the English language. Non-English speakers are vulnerable and immigrants are a "common target for scam artists ... who don't understand our legal and financial systems." Non-English speakers are particularly vulnerable when trying to do estate plans, including wills and trusts.
There's a reason that deathbed transfers of estate or trust assets are more likely to be contested. And the story you're about to hear just provides further confirmation. Eleanor Potter was 89 when she died in 2015 at her residence in Maine. By all accounts, she led a good life. She was married for 41 years to Newell Potter, the owner of a local furniture store in Maine, and though they had no children, the Potters enjoyed a wide circle of friends. Eleanor worked at IBM for 40 years, she was active in local civic organizations, the couple traveled extensively, and she and her husband collected art and antiques.
Trust accountings can be routine or the genesis for shocking discoveries of embezzlement and trustee fraud. Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property belonging to someone else by a person to whom it has been entrusted. The theft of property with a value of more than $950 can be prosecuted by law enforcement agencies as a felony. Civil wrongs stemming from the same acts may be litigated in the civil courts.
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California law provides that both individual and corporate trustees are entitled to compensation for their services as trustee. Corporate trustees, sometimes referenced as professional trustees, are different than individuals - like an aunt or an uncle administering a trust.
It's been over 40 years since I first represented clients in a will contest. A lot has changed over the years in estate litigation on behalf of beneficiaries. We now have elder financial abuse laws that can be enforced in jury trials. These newer laws often supplement the rights and remedies available from probate courts and allow the prosecution of some claims in the civil trial courts.