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Trust Disputes — Caregivers Often Cannot Take Under Trust Instrument

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2016 | Trust Disputes

Buffington Law Firm’s Trust litigation attorneys have had broad experience in the litigation of trust dispute issues.  In last week’s Blog article we discussed various theories for invalidating Trusts, or provisions within a Trust.  One of the categories dealt with certain types of beneficiaries who are presumptively disqualified from taking under a Trust.  In this article we will briefly discuss a specific type of (sometimes) presumptively disqualified beneficiary — a care custodian.

Unless an exception applies, a provision in a Trust instrument in favor of someone who is a “care custodian” of a settlor who is a “dependent adult” is invalid, if the care custodian provided services to the settlor during the period when the settlor executed the instrument or within 90 days of that period.  [Probate Code Section 21380(a)(3)].

The basic notion behind this provision is that it is unfortunately common that an ill (often elderly) person sometimes is highly dependent upon, and thus vulnerable to coercive pressure by, the dependent adult’s care custodian.  The care custodian is often in a position to exert powerful undue influence over the dependent adult, and this coercion can force a settlor to insert provisions into his or her trust that the settlor really does not want to do, but for the fear of retaliation (such as abandonment) by the care custodian.  Buffington Law Firm’s trust litigation attorneys have litigated many cases involving these types of situations.

A “care custodian” is a person who provides health or social services to a dependent adult. [Prob. Code Section 21362(a)].  However, a “good Samaritan” exception exists uner specified circumstances for a beneficiary who provided “care custodial” services without remuneration, if he or she had a personal relationship with the settlor.  The exception applies provided that the personal relationship existed at each of the following times: (1) at least 90 days before the person provided services to the settlor; (2) at least 6 months before the settlor’s death; and (3) before the settlor was admitted to hospice care if indeed that occurred.

This issue comes up frequently, and as the “baby boom” generation ages we can expect it to become even more common.  This is a frequent ground for meritorious Trust contests — it is simply a fact of life that care custodians are often in a position to exert undue influence over a dependent adult, and unfortunately this often actually occurs.  Buffington Law Firm’s trust dispute attorneys recently successfully closed an egregious example of this scenario.

If you believe that you have grounds for a Trust dispute arising from undue influence or other causes, we invite you to call Buffington Law Firm for a free legal consultation.  There is never any charge or obligation, and you will speak directly to one of our experienced Trust litigation attorneys.  All such meetings are entirely confidential and protected by the Attorney-Client Privilege.