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Not All Black Sheep are Cute


How the Story Starts:

Betty is an 85 year-old widow with two children, Mary, age 60 and Joe, age 55. Mary has a great relationship with her mother, and speaks with her by phone often each week, but because she lives out of state she can only visit a few times a year.


Her brother Joe has lived with Betty since he lost his job ten years ago.

For a while he looked for employment, but eventually stopped. His prospects for future employment are dim.


Betty is in reasonably good health, but her mental capacity has declined and she was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment two years ago.

Betty cannot drive any more, and depends on Joe for shopping, cooking, home maintenance, and other activities of daily living.


When Betty informed Mary that Joe had taken over as trustee of Betty’s trust, Mary was mildly concerned due to Joe’s heavy drinking and history of financial irresponsibility, but she saw no alternative since she was far away and Joe was already taking care of Betty. Mary hoped for the best.

The Situation

During a recent visit, Mary asked Betty about her financial situation, but Betty referred all questions to Joe. Joe was vague and evasive, and seemed irritated by Mary’s questions. Growing concerned, Mary went through Betty’s bills and bank statements and discovered that an equity line of credit had been placed on Betty’s home.

The $200,000 credit line was nearly maxed-out. The credit card statements showed hundreds of purchases that could not have been for Betty’s expenses: liquor, sports tickets, and cash advances at a casino.

*Disclaimer. This is a fictional narrative based on common fact patterns we have encountered. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The individuals who appear on the accompanying photos are dramatizations of fictional clients, witnesses, attorneys, or other parties. None of the individuals are actual clients, witnesses, attorneys, or parties to actual legal proceedings.


Are you or someone you know in a similar situation?


4 Lawyers with 75+ Years of Combined Experience All our Attorneys are Northern California Super Lawyers or Rising Stars

Loren Barr
Nick Maxwell
Senior Counsel
Trust Administration


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