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Elder Abuse in Estate Planning

May 1, 2022

This is a true story that took place in California.  It is taken from court records, the names have not been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty.

            Thomas and Wanda Tedesco had three daughters and a successful family business.  In 1988, they prepared an estate plan for their daughters and grandchildren, which involved trusts and partnerships.  Wanda died in 2002, and the Family Trust was divided into five separate trusts.

            Five years later, in 2007, Thomas remarried.  He and his new wife, Gloria, each had multimillion-dollar fortunes, and they each had children from earlier marriages.  Accordingly, the marriage was subject to prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.  In 2011, powers of attorney were conveyed to Thomas’ three daughters.  In June 2013, Thomas’ trust arrangements were made irrevocable. 

            Everything changed in the fall of 2013, after Thomas had a series of surgeries and he suffered diminished capacity.  Thomas had been working with an estate planner for decades, and suddenly the attorney found his calls were being blocked.  Gloria would not allow the daughters to visit their father. 

According to the Court:

            “A housekeeper, Virginia Winn, confronted Gloria and said, ‘You can't keep the girls from seeing their dad. They’re not stupid!’ Gloria responded, ‘I don't care.’ Gloria told Thomas that his daughters were ‘being bad’ to her, blocked his communication with his family, and attempted to erase them from his memory by removing photographs of them.”

            Then, for the first time, Thomas was indicating a desire to leave 75% of his estate to Gloria and 25% to charity.

            Alarmed, the daughters petitioned for a conservatorship for Thomas in 2014.  They alleged that Gloria and her daughter, Wear, were scheming to sabotage their relationship with their father and to use undue influence to get him to change his estate plans.  The conservatorship was granted in 2015, and an independent conservator was appointed.

            Wear (Gloria’s daughter) worked as a paralegal in a law office, and despite the conservatorship she facilitated communications between Thomas and her employer.  There were repeated attempts to get the conservatorship terminated. 

            In January 2020, there was a purported amendment to Thomas’ estate plan, disinheriting the daughters.  In April 2020, Thomas’ daughter applied for and received an Elder Abuse Restraining Order against Wear and several others.  Wear appealed the decision, but she lost.  The purported amendment to the estate plan was void because it was executed without notice to the conservator.

            The case is White v. Wear (2022).  An appeal of an elder abuse restraining order is unusual, and such orders are not common when a conservatorship has been ordered.

 

 

(April 2022)

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