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Richard, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55598
Experience:  29 years of experience practicing law, including tax and estate planning.
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My mother recently passed away and me and my sister are the

Customer Question

My mother recently passed away and me and my sister are the 2 beneficiaries to the estate. She has a Trust established and my sister and I were both trustees and we were to split everything 50/50. She also had a will and an IRA that wasnt in the trust but my sister and I were named the beneficiaries and that part has not been the problem. My questions are about the trust portion of it and I believe im being taken to the cleaners by my sister and uncle who have been maintaining it.. Ok I will go back a bit to when my mother was on her death bed and my Uncle, her brother went to the lawyer were my mom and dad had the trust drawn up and produced documentation to them that he was granted the trusteeship by my mother on her death bed.. He literally has my mom sign a document taking away my and my sisters trusteeship from under our nose, we had no idea about this and no idea why he would do this unless he had something to gain. My mom was so drugged up on morphine and the young kids he had be witnesses said he kept stopping the video tape until he had things right. The witnesses said it was very shady and he wouldnt even allow them to read what they were signing witness too. They were young adults and didnt know better but they did question him but he blew them off. The lawyers he took it to didnt seem to have a problem with it since it was signed and notorized by someone who watched a tape of the signing. (tape was spiced together so it looked good). Anyway we fought with the lawyers, (who became lawyers for the trust) and he didnt seem to care even though it is not valid im told if the person signing is doped up on medication. Anyway he became trustee. This became a horrible and unethical decision and I hate to say it because of pure greed. First of all let me tell you what was in the trust that he oversaw. There are 2 properties and an IRA of 70,000 that he was to oversee and the pay any bills that were pending as well as maintaining the expenses of both the properties until they were divided and the estate settled. This was in December of 2015. The lawyer even said if your uncle moves quickly this should be done in a month.. Here we are now with all the money gone and my sister with the deed to the a beach front condo in New Smyna Beach Florida in her hand and the other property which Im to inherit sitting in foreclosure because he didnt pay the mortgage on it. The two properties are a beach front condo in Florida and a single family home in Fairfield, Ohio. My sister is to pay me the difference btw the two and she not the lawyers give me a figure of 58,000. However, she says I have to deduct the amount of a loan my mom lent me from 2003 because the balance is still 36,000. I say I do not owe the 33,000 because I have been in chaper 11 bankruptcy and have proof my trustee paid her 33,600 back, and its not my fault she didnt apply the full amount given to her back on the loan, and that was my moms decision not mine. My sister also says I owe credit card charges that she wants deducted from the amount she owes also. She cant prove which charges were mine, Yes, my mom lent me her card but she also lent it to others as well, and the charges she gave me were from 2013 and 2014. I dont think she can do this because those charges are not even in existence when my mom passed away. These total about 19,000. So shes wanting to deduct this off the money she owes me!! I forgot to mention the 33000 loan is a mortgage tied to the Fairfield house and she wasnt paying it so the house went in foreclosure. I have come to find out that my uncle who weaseled his way into trustee position is actually doing nothing he is suppose to be doing and has giving my sister the checkbook to take care of expenses and she has written him a nice check out of it for 10,000. He has not maintained and of the property and will not even talk to me about any of this. He has blocked me from his phone and has locked me and only me out of the Fairfield House but not my sister. Tho he told me "no one was getting in it". When i asked him why he is treating me like this he stated it was because of issues he had with me from the past and my lifestyle, (which he should know nothing about me except what he hears from others). This alone is enough to get him to step down form the trustee position. There should be no unbiased between the beneficiaries. He and my sister tried to get me to sign a settlement agreement that was binding yet 2 pages were missing so I wouldn', and at this time he accused me of causing problems and said he will sell the property if i didn'. sign the thing. So here I sit and wonder if Its worth my while to sue them because this is costing me a lo of money in the long run if i dont do something, plus the Florida condo is a rental property and my sister is set to gain 4000 a month on that as well. I think I am entitled to any money made on the condo or she can by me out of that as well. ty
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Richard replied 11 months ago.

Hi! My name is Richard & I will be helping you today! It will take me a few minutes to type a response to your question. Thanks for your patience!

Expert:  Richard replied 11 months ago.

Hi Kris. Absolutely, I think it's worth your while to go after them. First, anything signed on your mother's death bed can be successfully contested. All you have to show is one or more of the following: lack of requisite mental capacity, duress, coercion, mistake, fraud, and/or undue influence. Although you have the burden, when you have your fact situation that changes a long-standing estate arrangement, courts/juries easily find one, if not all, of the foregoing elements.

Second, the trust and its assets are not the personal piggy bank of the trustee. Rather, the trustee is obligated to administer the trust specifically pursuant to the terms of the trust. In addition, the trustee’s fiduciary duty to each beneficiary requires that the trustee provide each beneficiary a full inventory of trust assets and periodic accounting of every dime in and out of the trust. Failure to do so is a breach of the trustee’s fiduciary duty to the grantor of the trust and to the beneficiaries. Such a breach gives the beneficiaries cause to ask the trustee to resign and if the trustee refuses to do so, gives the beneficiaries the right to file a petition with the family court asking the court to order the trustee removed. And, if there has been any misappropriation of trust assets, the beneficiaries can also ask the court to award actual and punitive damages against the trustee.

So, clearly you have valid causes of action. Under my terms of service with JustAnswer, I'm not allowed to make a specific recommendation, but I can give you direction. You would want to either contact the state bar association or your nearest law school for a referral. I prefer the latter because they take great pride in their graduates and will take a more personal interest in making sure your referral is a good one because it will be a reflection of the school. But, this is not a complicated case so you would only need a 1-2 year lawyer rather than a more experienced lawyer with the higher billing rate that comes with that experience. And, given your facts, you should be able to get attorneys fees awarded to you as well.

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