On October 20, 2021, I wrote a post about the tragic death of my sister Deborah (Tate) Trotta. Deb’s body was found on a beach near her house in Hobe Sound, Florida on September 12, 2021. Deb loved walking on the beach. In my October 20, post I got some things correct, I definitely got some things incorrect, and the post was significantly incomplete as at that point I had relatively little information, and in part I had also been provided an incorrect or even misleading for false narrative and information. I have now also reached a point of being able to discuss Deb and her tragic situation while keeping my sadness emotions under better control.
Although for years I have represented clients in extremely contentious and sometimes nasty trust, probate, and elder abuse litigation, Deb’s tragic circumstances both before and after her death are arguably the worst that I have ever seen, and, of course, Deb’s circumstances are also personal to me.
Here is the link to my original October 20, post https://californiaestatetrust.com/2021/10/20/2353/
Since October 20, I now have the sheriff’s report and the medical examiner report and the information contained in both of those reports. I have also heard from and talked with relatives and close long-time (essentially life-long) friends of Deb who I had not talked with for years and years. I also now have had the experience of dealing with husband. It would be more correct to say trying to deal with husband as he stopped communicating with me on September 22, 2021 (just 10 days after Deb’s death) as it was on that day that I requested that he send to me the text that he said Deb sent at 5:37 pm on September 11, which supposedly was Deb’s last text. My request for the text was denied. As was also my request for Deb’s phone or what was on her phone including pictures that she had taken, texts, emails, and a log of calls, etc. I was told that Deb was a private person – Deb wasn’t private, at least not with me and her close relatives and long-time friends. We all have a large number of texts from Deb in which she described her situation and provided pictures and videos.
I did not understand that on September 22, husband had folded shop and had actually stopped communicating – I kept trying to communicate, but I now understand in hindsight that husband had stopped and was done.
I will be writing a number of posts in which I discuss Deb and her situation. Instead of writing long blog posts, I am going to break these discussions into smaller specific topics and discussions. Perhaps as many as 10 or so topics and posts. I am doing this for two reasons: out of memory and respect for Deb and because she would not want her story kept hidden, and possibly as lessons that other people should consider or might learn from.
For example, just as a sampling, I will be discussing the sheriff’s report, the medical examiner report, don’t let someone who you don’t trust control your phone service plan (get our own plan), don’t let anyone who you don’t trust have essentially all of the access to, possession of, and information about the financial accounts and assets, make sure your estate planning documents are in order and that the documents are provided to people who you trust and love, have sufficient access to money and assets yourself, tell other people what is happening and just how bad it is, and have a plan and get out of and leave the situation (just leave) when you become sufficiently uncomfortable with what is happening.
For example, I did not know or understand how insecure Deb was about finances and her long-term financial security – I had told Deb that she should just leave, but I now understand why she had difficulty doing that. Ultimately on the morning of September 11, there was an argument, and Deb finally said that she was divorcing husband – Deb had texted that husband had threatened her with divorce and other things for a time. I now understand that Deb was so hesitant to just leave because she did not have information about, or possession or access to or control over the significant financial assets and accounts, and she was insecure and afraid of her financial risk if she left. She didn’t feel like she could just leave.
I had been working with Deb for her to retain a divorce attorney. This was no secret. Other friends and relatives had been working with Deb on the same. One or two days before September 11, Deb communicated that she was finally ready to go forward. And then there was “the argument” on the morning of September 11. I will have more to say about “the argument” and what was said in a later post – Deb finally said that she was leaving. I have been told that terms of her leaving and what would happen next were dictated to her.
Since Deb’s death husband has controlled all of the information and possessed all of Deb’s personal property and Tate legacy pictures, jewelry, assets and other items, all of the financial accounts and information, Deb’s ashes, and Deb’s poodle Annie. Husband has offered and provided nothing. Although their relationship had become very bad and abusive, and they were getting divorced, husband has held, withheld and refused to provide absolutely everything that was Deb’s including Deb’s ashes. One of our cousins lives 20-30 minutes from Deb’s house – the transfer of personal property and Deb’s ashes would have been extremely easy. Instead, there is complete control and denial.
Husband told me, and other people, that within a month of Deb’s death he himself would bring Deb’s ashes to California to be spread in two Marin and Sonoma County locations in accord with Deb’s wishes. He of course hasn’t done that. The disrespect, and possible desecration or sacrilege, of Deb and her ashes, and disregard for her known wishes has been absolute. We had also offered to arrange and pay for the secure transport of Deb’s ashes to California. I now have a personal understanding of what Deb had communicated in her many texts and during our phone calls, and what relatives and friends have said to me.
This week I retained legal counsel in Florida. In litigation and in my cases some issues and options can fall into a sort of gray zone, but sometimes the options are narrowed and the possible choices become clear. For Deb and in her situation the options have become clear – there are only two choices as nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen – (1) let it go and allow husband to continue control and to keep everything even including Deb’s ashes, personal and Tate legacy things and property, and the assets, or (2) bring legal action to honor Deb and her wishes. For me, seeking to honor Deb and her wishes is the obvious decision.
More to follow.
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Best to you,
David Tate, Esq. (and inactive CPA)
- Litigation, Disputes and Trials – Business, Contract/Commercial, Owner, and Founder; and Trust, Estate, Elder/Dependent Abuse, Conservatorships, POA, Real Property, Health and Care, Contentious Administrations, etc.
- D&O, Governance, Workplace, Boards, Committees, and Executives, Investigations, Internal Controls and Auditing, Law, Laws and Legislation, Responsibilities and Duties, Rights, Liability, and Damages, etc.
Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.
Also note – sometimes I include links to or comments about materials from other organizations or people – if I do so, it is because I believe that the materials are worthwhile reading or viewing; however, that doesn’t mean that I don’t or might not have a different view about some or even all of the subject matter or materials, or that I necessarily agree with, or agree with everything about or relating to, that organization or person, or those materials or the subject matter.
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My two blogs are:
http://tateattorney.com – business, D&O, audit committee, governance, compliance, etc. – previously at http://auditcommitteeupdate.com
Trust, estate, conservatorship, elder and elder abuse, etc. litigation and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com
David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing as an attorney in California only.