Court’s Expansive Interpretation of Abuse Act Widens Protection for Elder

As 2022 begins, one court case highlights the role of the Elder Abuse Act as well as the prevalent nature of elder abuse cases litigation involving trusts and estates. In the Ring case, an appellate court considered a loan scheme utilized to empty equity from a house retained as part of an estate proceeding through probate. 

Even though a loan was withdrawn by a person acting in the role of the estate’s personal representative, the court held that the representative could pursue a claim of elder abuse connected to the loss of the representative’s interest in relation to the estate. 

The Basis of the Case

The case involved an 80-year-old woman whose daughter passed away. The daughter left the older woman a house, but according to the older woman, her son and her grandson pursued a strategy to take a great deal of equity from the house.

The son and her grandson worked together with a loan worker which resulted in the older woman’s appointment as representative of the deceased daughter’s estate. The older woman then used her power as a personal representative to obtain a loan at almost 11 percent. The son and grandson collected proceeds from the loan while the son received fees as well as the loan’s income stream.

The Proceedings in the Case

The older woman in her individual role then pursued a civil complaint against the son and grandson that included a claim of financial elder abuse. 

A Superior Court in California’s San Bernardino County held that claims related to the older woman solely as personal representative of the deceased daughter’s estate. The court came to this conclusion because the older woman collected the loan as a personal representative.

The decision left the older woman without a venue to claim financial abuse claims brought against the son because an entity does not exist that supports the argument that an estate’s personal representative has the standing to pursue a claim of elder abuse for the estate beneficiary. 

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The appellate court determined that the older woman’s role as a personal representative as well as a beneficiary constituted a special situation that warranted letting her pursue legal action based on the financial interest she had in the estate. 

The older woman retained a beneficiary interest in the real estate following the daughter’s death. The associated loan lowered the worth of the woman’s interest and consequently robbed the woman of a right involving the property. As a result, the appellate court ruled against the probate court decision. The appellate court permitted the older woman to continue with her claim that the son committed financial abuse. 

The Impact of the Case

The court held that if the older woman is successful with her financial abuse claim, the older woman is entitled to receive compensation for what her lawyer charged under the Welfare and Institutions Code. This decision tends to reflect a large trend by appellate courts in California to permit seniors as well as their representatives to seek elder abuse claims involving financial exploitation. 

Contact an Elder Law Attorney

Elder abuse can constitute a variety of forms, including financial and emotional. If your elderly loved one has fallen victim to abuse, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced elder law attorney. Contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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