You should have periodic checkups with an estate planning attorney; investment, FINRA or financial planner advisor; banker; CPA; health provider; or other person – to help you to avoid or get out of situations of financial abuse, exploitation, control, and lack of information, access and possession

The following is the slightly longer version of the title to this discussion:

Another reason why you should have periodic checkups with an estate planning attorney, investment, FINRA or financial planner advisor, CPA, banker, fiduciary or trustee, mental or physical health, medical or care provider, or other person – who can help you to avoid or to get out of situations of elder, spousal, partner, dependent adult, and joint- or co-owner financial abuse, exploitation, control, and lack of information, access and possession.

            This discussion is primarily to provide another good reason for, and to encourage people to, periodically meet or talk with an appropriate professional for a checkup as a regular matter of practice. I realize that in my litigation practice I only see the bad cases. But I am seeking a lot more cases of elder, spousal, partner, dependent adult, and joint- or co-owner financial abuse and exploitation where one person in the relationship controls the finances including information about the finances, accounts and investments, and access to and possession of the finances, money, accounts and investments.

            It is not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be primarily responsible for or tasked with handling most financial matters or tasks. And in most relationships that ends up being fine. But it creates a potential risk or an issue of risk management that might not be obvious or known until the person who is not handling the finances begins to ask questions and wants to have information and access, or when the relationship begins to sour or even ends. At some point you may begin to see resistance from the person who has been in charge of or tasked with the finances, and as you persist and even begin to push for information, and access and possession, you may begin to see that the person who has been in charge or has been tasked with the finances is not as trustworthy or benevolent has you had thought – instead you may begin to see a controlling, possessive, secretive, self-centered, or vindictive personality, or even dysfunctional, dangerous and damaging. Whereas things had seemed fine until you started wanting to become knowledgeable and involved, if you persist you may see an effort being made to convince you that all is fine and that you are being unreasonable or even paranoid, or that you are being insulting to or untrusting of the person in control, or to downplay or misrepresent the situation and or the narrative, or to gaslight, intimidate, belittle, coerce, or force you stay in line and to accept the status quo. The potential scenarios and efforts to keep and maintain the status quo are numerous.  

            If the above scenarios sound dark, that is because they are dark. But I am doing this discussion because I am seeing more and more of these situations including between and involving spouses, partners, dependent adults, joint- or co-owners, and other family members or relatives. These situations also often include instances of undue influence or persuasion, taking undue advantage, and fraud. In most cases the wrongdoer digs in, tries to control and misrepresent the narrative, gaslights, and says well . . . take it back if you can. As I talk with other attorneys, they are seeing the same. These cases can be long and complicated to pursue – which fits the strategy of the wrongdoer to deny, delay, and hide, and to prevail by grinding down. In every case there is the applicable law, and what you know and can prove through evidence that is admissible, what you need or want to know, and what you don’t know but believe that you can obtain and find out through investigation and discovery.

            The primary point of this discussion is to try to safeguard and protect people from, and to prevent, the above situations, and to be able to remedy them if they occur. These situations are best prevented if there is or if there becomes mutual access to information about the finances, and access to and possession of the finances, accounts, money, and investments (other than those assets that truly are separate property by law).  

            Thus, why do I say that people should periodically see an estate planning attorney; investment, FINRA or financial planner or advisor; CPA; banker; fiduciary or trustee; mental or physical health, medical or care provider; or other person for a checkup? Because they and other professionals can or may be able to help or to help guide the victim or person at risk to avoid or how to avoid or get out of situations of elder, spousal, partner, dependent adult, and joint- or co-owner financial abuse, exploitation, control, and lack of information, access and possession.

This discussion is not about professional legal duties. If you are a professional you should already make sure that you are knowledgeable or that you become knowledgeable about your legal duties and practices. Regardless of legal duties, if you are a professional, you may already have, and I encourage you to have, standard procedures or processes whereby you obtain information that could help to indicate whether your client, or one of your clients if you are representing joint clients, is a victim or is at risk of being a victim of elder, spousal, partner, dependent adult, and joint- or co-owner financial abuse, exploitation, control, and lack of information, access and possession. Thus, for example, the client could be seeing you for a periodic, or even an initial, checkup to discuss changes in the law, new opportunities, and relevant changes in their lives or wishes.

            If you are an estate planning attorney, investment, FINRA or financial planner or advisor, CPA, banker, fiduciary or trustee, or mental or physical health, medical or care provider there may well already be reasons for you to ask about or to discuss with your client, or clients jointly or separately, the significant financial assets, accounts and investments, and who has, or controls, access, possession, and information, as a standard practice for the purpose of providing professional services. Answers, or lack of answers or information may also identify abuse, exploitation, risk and or issues of risk management. It is far better to identify, prevent and avoid significant risk, and to remedy any significant risk, as soon as possible. A person who is at risk should not be alone or in a silo about the situation, and should be made to be comfortable coming out and discussing the situation and possible needs, options, remedies, and who to see for help. And also ask the client in a private one-on-one setting to provide names of and contact information for trusted family members, trusted friends, and people who the client designates as trusted contacts in circumstances of concern or need.

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In Loving Memory of Deborah Ann Tate Trotta (September 12, 2021).

You can see a discussion about Deb, and her situation before and after death by clicking on the below link which is titled and discusses:

Someone who should not be a suicide decedent’s representative, or control or get the suicide decedent’s remains, property or assets – every state needs a law and cause of action. In loving memory of Deborah Ann Tate Trotta (September 12, 2021). https://californiaestatetrust.com/2022/12/25/someone-who-should-not-be-allowed-to-become-a-suicide-decedents-representative-or-to-get-the-suicide-decedents-assets-and-property-a-law-and-cause-of-action-that-every-stat/

Good people need to be on the lookout, and take actions.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to pass this blog and blog post and information to other people who would be interested.

* * * * * * *

Best to you,

David Tate, Esq. (and inactive CPA)

  • Business litigation and disputes – business, breach of contract/commercial, co-owners, shareholders, investors, founders, workplace and employment, environmental, D&O, governance, boards and committees.
  • Trust, estate and probate court litigation and disputes – trust, estate, probate, elder and dependent abuse, conservatorship, POA, real property, mental health and care, mental capacity, undue influence, conflicts of interest, and contentious administrations.
  • Governance, boards, audit and governance committees, investigations, auditing, ESG, etc.
  • Mediator and facilitating dispute resolution:
    • Trust, estate, probate, conservatorship, elder and dependent abuse, etc.
    • Business, breach of contract/commercial, owner, shareholder, investor, etc.
    • D&O, board, audit and governance committee, accountant and CPA related.
    • Other: workplace and employment, environmental, trade secret.

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, or as or for my opinions and views on the subject matter.

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.

Please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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 only as an attorney in California.

California Trustee Investment Portfolio Risk Management and Responsibilities, Elder Abuse, Etc.

The following are links to posts discussing California trustee investment risk management and responsibilities. This is one of the trustee responsibility areas that would keep me up at night if as a trustee I had responsibility over a significant investment portfolio. But the issue doesn’t stop there – it isn’t just a matter of having a prudent portfolio approach to investing, the California Probate Code also contains other specific statutory investment related provisions that the trustee should consider. Stock markets go up and down – for every buyer there is a seller – a loss in value by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that the trustee breached his or her duties – and risk of adverse events cannot be eliminated, but a trustee should want feel covered to the extent possible. The following are links to blog posts discussing these topics.

The Stock Market Dropped Today – Trustee Portfolio Investment Strategy Risk Management – Very Relevant Now and Always, http://wp.me/p1wbl8-cM

California Trustee Investment and Management Responsibilities (Part 2 of 2), http://wp.me/p1wbl8-9c

California Trustee Investment and Management Responsibilities (Part 1 of 2), http://wp.me/p1wbl8-97

See Discussion Paper – A Summary of California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights, http://wp.me/p1wbl8-eB

California Trustee – What Would Keep Me Up At Night – February 2015, http://wp.me/p1wbl8-ak 

And for those of you who are interested in undue influence, mental capacity and consent, elder abuse and related topics, here’s a link to some presentation slides – Updated Elder Abuse and Protection Presentation Slides – Please Read and Forward, http://wp.me/p1wbl8-dm

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California), http://californiaestatetrust.com and http://auditcommitteeupdate.com, including Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (updated January 2016, 183 pages)

Trustee Portfolio Investment Strategy Risk Management – Very Relevant Now And Always

The following post is updated from a prior post – this topic is always relevant, including in today’s environment.

A trustee needs a portfolio investment strategy in keeping with the terms of the trust and legal requirements.

In pertinent part California Probate Code section 16047(b) provides:

“A trustee’s investment and management decisions respecting individual assets and courses of action must be evaluated not in isolation, but in the context of the trust portfolio as a whole and as a part of an overall investment strategy having risk and return objectives reasonably suited to the trust.”

In discussing circumstances that are appropriate to consider in investing and managing trust liabilities section 16047(c)(4) also lists the role that each investment or course of action plays within the overall trust portfolio.

You should read section 16047 in its entirety, in addition to the terms of the trust and other applicable statutory and case law; however, the point is that a trustee needs to have a portfolio investment strategy.

And there is another very important reason to have a portfolio investment strategy. Investments will naturally increase and decrease in value over time, and even daily. Although facts and circumstances in each different situation will vary, assuming that there is a portfolio investment strategy and that the portfolio investment strategy and other relevant facts are appropriate for the trust and the beneficiaries, as a general rule gains and losses of different investments within that portfolio investment strategy should be netted such that the trustee gets the benefit of both gains and losses if there is an assertion or claim that the trustee breached his or her management and investment fiduciary duties. Whereas, if there is no overall portfolio investment strategy, there is more of a likelihood that the gains and losses will not be netted, and that a trustee might be chargeable with a loss in a particular investment without the benefit of gains in other investments.

And this also reinforces the need for trustees to regularly review the portfolio investment strategy and the individual investments to make sure that the investments and allocation of investments are appropriate – although gains and losses should be netted as part of an overall portfolio investment strategy, if a particular investment becomes unsuitable or unsuitable to that overall investment strategy and if time continues to pass without a reevaluation of that investment by the trustee, not immediately, but over time, and argument might arise that it might no longer be appropriate to consider that individual investment and losses or gains in that investment as part of the overall portfolio investment strategy. In that circumstance the trustee could find that a court might treat that investment as a standalone investment and also treat gains and losses in that investment in the same manner without the benefit of netting with other investments. Obviously although that situation for the trustee might turn out okay if there is a gain in that investment, it does create greater investment loss risk for the trustee. Additionally, whereas the investment might initially gain in value, is also possible that an argument might arise that a subsequent loss in that individual investment might not be netted with the prior gains in that investment.

The facts and circumstances in each situation will vary, and each situation must be evaluated based on the facts and circumstances of that trust and that situation. Additionally, different judges will have differing approaches to trustee investment duties and responsibilities. Nevertheless, having a portfolio investment strategy approach, and timely reviewing that strategy, the investments made, and the investment allocation within the context of the trust, the beneficiaries, statutory and case law, and the investment and economic environment will help manage and reduce trustee investment liability risk.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco / California)