In my Orange County, California estate planning practice, I am constantly amazed at the greed shown by family members towards each other. Although I have been in practicing thirty years now with substantial experience in trust, probate and estate litigation, I have seen no change in the willingness of one or more family members to short-change another family member.
Not too long ago I was approached by a grandchild of deceased grandparents. This grandchild had three siblings. All of them were told that when their grandparents died, the living trust that had been established for them by the grandparents would be held by their father, as trustee, for their benefit, until each grandchild turned 21 years old. At that time, the father was to distribute that grandchild’s share of the living trust.
At the time that I was retained, all of the siblings had attained age 21 with oldest being age 28. The father had never rendered an accounting (a report of the assets that he started with, the income that he received, the expenses that he incurred, and the property that was on hand) to his children to show what he had done with their trust funds. Instead, he had repeatedly made promises that an accounting would be prepared shortly or that the income and expense information was at the accountant’s waiting to be assembled into an accounting. The children began to suspect that their father was withholding their money and using it for himself, which is considered, in California, a breach of fiduciary duty by the trustee. I was asked to do something about this.
What I did will be in my next entry.