Barefoot v. Jennings, Supreme Court of California (January 23, 2020), Standing Under Cal. Probate Code §17200, and More . . .

Barefoot v. Jennings, Supreme Court of California (January 23, 2020), S251574, 2020 WL 372523

Summary and Holding: (1) Settlor Maynord executed eight amendments (amendment numbers 17 through 24) to the trust through which petitioner’s/plaintiff’s share of the trust as set out in the 16th amendment was eliminated; (2) the Court held that petitioner/plaintiff, an ex-beneficiary, has standing to bring an action under Cal. Probate Code §17200 to challenge the validity of the trust amendments where she alleges that the amendments that disinherited her were invalid because Maynord was incompetent to make the amendments; the amendments were the product of respondents’/defendants’ undue influence; and the amendments were the product of respondents’/defendants’ fraud; (3) §17200 allows a trustee or a beneficiary to petition the Court; (4) petitioner/plaintiff had standing under §17200 because although she is not currently a beneficiary, she would or will be a beneficiary if her allegations are proven.

The following are my initial comments:

  1. I don’t understand why the Court went down this path – petitioner already had standing to challenge or contest the trust amendments under her three theories (lack of mental capacity, undue influence, and fraud) – §17200 wasn’t necessary to provide petitioner with standing. Nevertheless, the holding is as it is.
  2. Allegations of lack of mental capacity, undue influence, and fraud can or might trigger a no contest clause – does bringing the action under §17200 in some manner change (lower or eliminate) that argument? See also footnote 3 in this regard.
  3. It is interesting that since petitioner was provided benefits under the 16th amendment, she had to argue that the 17th through 24th amendments are all invalid.
  4. The Court’s decision is not based on the Legislative intent – I would have thought that it would be, or at least that the Court would have thought that the Legislative intent would be relevant.
  5. In its decision the Court specifically declines to discuss or interpret Cal. Probate Code §850. That would have been an interesting discussion as I have had cases involving allegations pertaining to §850 (and §859) and when someone has standing or not – there is almost no case law on this topic although there is Legislative history. For example, one provision of §850 provides that in particular circumstances a trustee or an interested person has standing to bring a petition – but absent case law, I would not view “interested person” under §850 as being the same as “beneficiary” in the context of the Barefoot v. Jennings discussion under §17200.
  6. The Court’s decision is of interest for additional reasons, including, for example, the Court’s affirmation that in construing a trust the Court’s primary duty is to give effect to the settlor’s intentions, and the Probate Court has extremely broad power and authority to apply equitable and legal principles in order to assist its function as a Probate Court, and is given broad jurisdiction over practically all controversies that might arise between trustees and those claiming to be beneficiaries of the trust (including to preserve trust assets and the rights of all purported beneficiaries while the Court adjudicates the standing issue).

We can expect that more decisions will be forthcoming relating to the impact of the holding in Barefoot v. Jennings, potential issues that I have discussed above, standing under §17200, and the entirety of §850, et seq.

You can click on the following link for a copy of Barefoot v. Jennings Barefoot v Jennings California Supreme Court


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.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Probate Court Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries and beneficiaries; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business and Business-Related Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; and Nonprofit Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets
  • M&A disputes
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes
  • Buy-sell disputes
  • Funding and share dilution disputes
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations and Governance

  • Corporate and business internal investigations
  • Board, audit committee and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:


Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at if the below scan is too difficult to read:

* * * * *

New FinCEN and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Memo re Efforts to Combat Elder Financial Exploitation

At the bottom of this post you will find a link to a new Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau memorandum about efforts to combat elder financial exploitation, which the memo identifies as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets. And I have also included additional links below. As the memo notes, “Financial institutions can play a key role in detecting, responding to, and preventing EFE [Elder Financial Exploitation]. The memo also encourages collaboration between financial institutions, law enforcement and APS [Adult Protective Services]. This is a topic that I have handled in many actual cases, and about which I have given presentations and written blog posts. I have also seen a recent article discussing the rather large percentage of incidents in which physical elder abuse is not reported by medical facilities such as hospitals.

It has long been my view that the collaboration effort must also include private attorneys, for the simple reason that law enforcement and APS simply do not have the resources to handle the numbers of cases, or how long it takes to prosecute them to obtain recovery. Reporting is one thing, prosecuting the cases is an entirely different matter. Law enforcement and APS are not staffed to obtain recovery through the court system. The district attorney and attorney general are staffed to prosecute these cases through the court system, but again, the resources available are inadequate. These cases can involve complicated legal and evidentiary issues including mental capacity, undue influence, dependence, consent, fiduciary and other duties, burden of proof, etc.

In addition to the below link to the FinCEN/Financial Protection Bureau memorandum, I have also provided below a few links to some of my prior posts on this topic and elder abuse.

Best regards, David Tate, Esq., Royse Law Firm, Menlo Park office,

Click to access 201708_cfpb-treasury-fincen_memo_elder-financial-exploitation.pdf

Elder Abusers Use The Legal System Also – Video

Elder and Dependent Adult Resources are Ridiculously Inadequate and Archaic

Elder Abuse and Protection Slides 2015

Counties Need to Refer Elder Abuse Cases to Private Attorneys – Video

Everyday is elder abuse prevent day – cartoon video

I’m Getting Back To Using Video – A Video About My Practice Areas

Greetings all. I am getting back to using video more often, and another new initiative which I will be telling you about shortly. Moving forward I am trying to do one video a week, and then the other posts will be in writing.  I have done a quick video about my practice areas. Enjoy and tell others. Thanks. Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco / California, (415) 917-4030.

Ombudsman Services San Mateo County – A Snapshot Of Great Accomplishments

The following are two snapshots of the accomplishments of Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County. As you might be aware, Ombudsman services are mandated by law to advocate on behalf of better and proper care of residents at care facilities, to work to improve the care provided by the facility, to investigate situations and improper care, and report improper care and abuse. The following are two snapshots of activities from Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County, which is an active advocate on behalf of care facility residents – and you can view their website at the following link CLICK HERE



Our Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Prevention and Remedies Are Ridiculously Inadequate and Archaic – Insufficient Resources and Boots on the Ground, and No Collaboration

Let’s talk more about elder and dependent adult abuse and protection, and why we are failing in California. Prevention and remedies are ridiculously inadequate and archaic, particularly taking into account the numbers of cases of abuse.

I first started bringing elder and dependent adult abuse cases in 1993. My cases were primarily for physical, care, mental, undue influence, duress, fraud, financial, theft, real property, trust, and will abuse. I have to say that the more that things change they also stay the same. The same types of abuse still occur, and they always will. The cases were difficult then, and they still are. These cases take time and expertise. There is often difficulty obtaining evidence. And defendants really fight these cases, always arguing that nothing wrongful occurred, that the victim rightfully knew what they were doing and of their own free will, and in physical abuse cases that the injury naturally occurred due to the victim’s naturally poor condition. In other words, everything was known and on the up-and-up. Defendants in these cases count on the prospect that you will have difficulty proving the case, and that you will go away eventually for lack of resources and time. Nothing has really changed.

We should ask, what resources are available to fight elder and dependent adult abuse?  The first line of prevention and defense includes good people who are family, friends, professionals such as doctors, bankers, caregivers, accountants and financial advisors, and sometimes other third parties. Will these people recognize the possible or actual abuse, and then also take action? Do they even know what action might be possible and who to contact?  If so, most likely only to a certain limited extent.

The next line of defense probably includes law enforcement, adult protective services and the district attorney. Most likely these people only get involved because someone in the first line of defense has contacted them. I have previously discussed the inadequacy of the second line of defense – they simply do not have the time and people power and resources to handle the numbers of possible or actual abuse cases, or to stick with the cases long-term. They can pick some cases to attempt to handle.

I would say that the third line of defense includes the private attorneys. There are resources in this category that are under utilized, at least in part because people in the first category don’t know who to contact, people in the second category don’t know who to contact and aren’t authorized to contact or won’t contact people in the third line of defense, and it is also true that private attorneys also have resources and abilities that are not unlimited and each case must also be evaluated.

Improvements can be made to the situations described above. In particular, problems and issues relating to people in the first category, the first line of prevention and defense, can be improved by getting the information out so that they can better spot abuse or possible abuse and take action. Problems and issues relating to people in the second category, the second line of defense, can be improved with additional funding or monetary resources, and by having people in the second line of defense refer people or cases to the private attorneys in the third category or third line of defense.  And efforts can be made to further educate attorneys in the third line of defense about the procedures, causes of action, and remedies that are available to them. Similarly, additional effort needs to be made to educate the courts, judges, and other legal system professionals about types of abuse, evidence that abuse has occurred, and the procedures, causes of action and remedies available.

And let me discuss one additional program, the ombudsman program, which every county in California is supposed to have, and the members/volunteers of which go into the nursing homes (SNF) and residential care facilities (RCFE) and similar entities to check on the care provided and advocate on behalf of the residents. I’m a board member of Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County, California. This is a tremendous nonprofit organization. They do great work. Ombudsman Services organizations do vary from county to county – they are run different, they have different funding, they have different numbers of volunteers, they have different training, they have different decision-making processes, and some are county-run whereas other’s are separate nonprofit entities, etc. Here is a link to Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County, I ask that you also donate to them if you wish.

That’s all for now. These cases really haven’t changed for over 20 years, in my experience. You might hear a commercial about reporting elder abuse, and those commercials are important, but it is really about having numbers of boots on the ground that make a difference. If the boots and referrals aren’t there, nothing will be done or remedied, and it goes on and on.

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and throughout California,


Is Your Trust, Estate, Power Of Attorney, Conservatorship, Or Care Situation Contentious?

Are there disagreements and disputes in your trust, estate, power of attorney, conservatorship or care situation? That’s not unusual. In fact, based on my experience, I would have to say that it’s pretty common. But it can also be a game changer.

Generally a fiduciary such as a trustee, executor or conservator, and sometimes an attorney in fact, should always hire an attorney when challenging or difficult issues or significant assets are involved. The question is whether one of the parties who is involved in the situation has, or needs to, or may, or likely will hire an attorney with a view toward litigation? That’s a game changer when that possibility might occur or actually does.

Trust, estate, conservatorship, power of attorney, care and elder abuse situations and litigation are complicated legal practice areas that typically can involve a lot of emotional feelings and mistrust, and that require the attorney to know multiple areas of law and court procedure.

If you are a fiduciary such as a trustee, executor, conservator or attorney in fact you need to hire an attorney who can advise you properly about your responsibilities and on the administration of the trust, estate and assets, or on the care and daily living needs of the conservatee or person in need, with a view toward helping you to satisfy your responsibilities effectively and correctly, practicing prudent risk management and documentation, avoiding liability and litigation, and prevailing in court if the situation ends up in court.

If you are a beneficiary you need to hire an attorney who can steer you correctly to help you protect your rights and obtain the assets that were intended for you, and not waste your resources and the resources of the trust or of the estate, or possibly cause you to be surcharged for the attorneys’ fees of the other side, with a view toward prevailing in court if the situation ends up in court. If you are a beneficiary you also don’t want to unknowingly contest a trust or will or possibly disinherit yourself.

And if you are a trustor who is no longer trustee, or a principal under a power of attorney, or a conservatee, you need to feel and know that your physical, mental and financial needs and rights are correctly and timely cared for and protected, and you might also need to be represented by legal counsel. In fact, if the situation ends up in court, in some situations, such as in a conservatorship, you have an absolute right to be represented by an attorney, and in other situations the court should and will on its own appoint legal counsel to represent and advocate for you.

For additional information, the following is a link to my summary paper discussing trustee and beneficiary responsibilities and rights, and you can also find helpful information about other situations on other posts on this blog, CLICK HERE

Contact me if you would like to discuss your situation. You can contact me by sending me an email at Before we discuss your situation I will need to know the names of the people and attorneys involved to check for any possible conflicts.

Wishing you the very best,

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and throughout California


From Trusts & Estates – Safeguarding Trusts from Future Ex-Spouse – Also Good Marketing for Estate Planning Attorneys

Trusts & Estates article Safeguard Trusts from Future Ex-Spouse of Beneficiary

This is a very interesting article from Trusts & Estates that I almost overlooked. It isn’t the Massachusetts case discussion that interests me, it is that I never hear estate planning attorneys discussing these topics and using these topics to tell people additional reasons why they might need a trust and how trusts can be used, and to differentiate one estate planning attorney’s services from another. Click on the following link for the article, CLICK HERE

Dave Tate, Esq., civil (business, real estate, injury), trust, estate, conservatorship and elder abuse litigation and contentious administrations, representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and family members, San Francisco and throughout California. See also my other blog for audit committees,

See Discussion Paper – A Summary of California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights

Whether you are a trustee/fiduciary or a beneficiary, click on the following link for my summary paper discussing California trustee and beneficiary responsibilities and rights, A Summary of California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights Dave Tate Esq 01052016

Dave Tate, Esq. San Francisco and throughout California – trust, estate, conservatorship and elder and dependent adult abuse litigation and contentious administrations; civil business, real estate and personal injury litigation; audit committees, D&O, risk, compliance and investigations. My other blog,

Is Your Aging Client Being Seduced Away By Another “Advisor”? – From Aging Investor

From Aging Investor, for the discussion click on the following link, CLICK HERE.

An interesting discussion, on a topic that needs more coverage relative to investment advisors and persuasion or undue influence in general. Mental capacity, mental understanding, intent, persuasion and undue influence are common issues and themes in elder and dependent adult abuse, trust, estate and real property litigation. In my experience, it is very difficult to get a business to reverse a transaction or a sale after the fact on an argument that the elder did not and could not understand the transaction. All situations are different of course, but most likely you will have to file a lawsuit before the entity will really take you seriously. It can help if there are prior medical/psychological doctor or other professional evaluations or comments about lack of mental capacity or the inability to engage in transactions or to continue as trustee, or a prior established conservatorship in appropriate cases.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco Bay Area and California),

Probate Court Judges Need More Judiciary Education From The California Judicial Council

I can say this – absolutely. California judges need more, and more detailed, education about probate, wills, trusts, decedent’s intent, mental capacity, undue influence, fraud, conservatorships and elder and dependent adult abuse.

I’m not saying that all judges need more education – some are quite experienced in these areas – but over the past several years I have been running into situations where judges who primarily handle civil or criminal matters are also assigned probate related cases. And this can happen in any court for trial purposes because even in courts that have dedicated probate departments, the trial of a probate case that will take longer than a day will probably be assigned to the master calendar for trial and judicial assignment. I’m not faulting a judge for not having experience in these areas – I am faulting the system and the judiciary education system.

While, yes, it can be argued that it is then for the attorneys to educate that judge, if I’m a judge and one attorney is saying that the law and the required outcome are “X” and another attorney is saying that the law and the outcome are “Y,” as the judge I don’t know who to believe. And add to that the fact that probate, wills, trusts, intent, mental capacity, undue influence, fraud, conservatorships and elder and dependent adult cases and evidence are detailed and complicated, including the law in those areas, which is also regularly changing, and you have a recipe for erroneous decisions, and also opportunities for less than honest counsel to exceed the bounds of advocacy and improperly twist or spin the law and the evidence.

These are important cases. They are the probate court version of family law – important issues, very emotional, and people related and impacting.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California) and