Readers in Minneapolis and St. Paul may have tuned in to our previous discussions about the risks of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, but a recent case involving a gambling grandmother turns the tables on the usual roles of exploiter versus exploited. Criminal charges stemming from the grandmother's looting of her grandson's college trust fund still serve as a lesson in the importance of monitoring the financial practices of an elder family member, but also illustrate the importance of legal assistance in matters of trust administration.
Twin Cities residents with loved ones in residential care may want to take notice of a recent criminal case in Dakota County involving the financial exploitation of residents at a nursing home in South St. Paul. Four counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult led to a guilty plea by the accused woman, who allegedly stole almost $63,000 between March 2009 and November 2010. She apparently was able to obtain the money by writing checks to herself from the victims' checking accounts.
Minnesotans considering trust litigation may want to consider the case of a wealthy polo club owner. The entrepreneur established an irrevocable trust naming his two biological children as beneficiaries. He also appointed a wealth management firm to oversee the administration of the trust. Because the trust is irrevocable, the polo club owner has no authority to remove the wealth management company as trustee. Claiming to have lost confidence in the company's management, the entrepreneur elected to adopt his adult girlfriend in order to make her a beneficiary of the trust. Through this adoption, the entrepreneur gave his 42-year-old girlfriend the legal authority to challenge the administration of the trust and potentially replace the wealth management firm with a new trustee.
Minnesota beneficiaries may be able to learn lessons from the famous estate disputes of celebrities. Public lawsuits over celebrities' estates have brought light to such issues as self-dealing, proper execution of trusts and misuse of funds.
Minnesotans are known for being very polite and generous people, and not too quick to offend. These admirable traits are just a few things that make living in Minnesota special. However, that these good qualities are the norm may sometimes result in Twin Cities residents' not being particularly comfortable in discussing a loved one's end-of-life wishes. Indeed, many families throughout the country put off important decisions regarding wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships and other estate planning matters, and too often the end result is problems with probate.
Readers in the Twin Cities will be interested to hear of a recent court decision that involved the estate of the late civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The case has been unfolding in Michigan, where the state supreme court just overturned a previous ruling given by a probate judge and the Michigan Court of Appeals. Reportedly, the probate dispute has been focused on a $10 million memorabilia collection and the intellectual property rights of the late civil rights icon.