California Protects Seniors from Abuse and Undue Influence

Before I moved my office to Newport Beach, California, I was a partner in a law firm in Santa Ana, California. While there I tried a case that was decided in accordance with the statutes concerning Undue Influence. Undue Influence appears in the California Probate Code ( California Probate Code §21350) and is commonly alleged when it is suspected that a vulnerable individual signed a will, a deed, or other instrument, giving something of value to someone that would not have occurred, but for that someone’s undue influence over the vulnerable individual (typically an elderly, senior person). Undue Influence is defined in California Civil Code §1575 .

In this case, an elderly gentleman, who lived in what was then Leisure World, near Seal Beach, California, was taken in by his caregiver, a woman hired to help him with his daily activities. My client was a cousin, once removed, of this elderly senior. Incidentally, my client was also the elderly senior’s only living relative. My client came to me and told me that she suspected that the caregiver was isolating her cousin, turning him against her. The caregiver would not put her cousin on the telephone when she called him, often giving some lame excuse, and the letters that she used to receive from her cousin were less frequent and had an angry, accusatory tone to them. My client had handled her cousin’s financial affairs for years pursuant to the authority that she was given by a Power of Attorney (California Probate Code §4022) that had been given to my client by her cousin in order for her to pay his bills and otherwise assist him. When the caregiver notified my client that the caregiver had been given a new Power of Attorney and demanded that my client turn over the checkbook to the caregiver, my client took action.

After reviewing the facts of this case, I filed a petition in the Orange County Superior Court. The petition alleged, among other things, that the caregiver was exercising Undue Influence over my client’s cousin, and sought to have the caregiver removed from his affairs, re-instating my client as his agent for financial affairs (i.e. his attorney-in-fact).

I’ll describe what happened in my next post.