Exploitation of Client’s Elderly Mother by Client’s Brother Results in Forfeiture of Brother’s Estate Benefits

family lawWe represented one of two adult children of a Phoenix widow, who passed away at the age of 85.  Our client’s unmarried brother lived with their mother for several years before her death, in the mother’s Phoenix house.  Our client is a resident of California, and given the geographic distance, he had only minimum personal contact with his mother prior to her death.  Our client’s mother left a will, in which she left her estate to our client and his brother in equal shares.  The principal asset of the mother’s estate was her house.

After his mother’s passing, our client discovered that approximately three months before her death, while she was suffering from advanced dementia, she signed a deed transferring title to her house to his brother.  At the time, their mother was in a long-term care facility and the brother was living in her house.  The brother kept the property transfer secret from our client during their mother’s lifetime.  Our client also discovered that his brother had facilitated the property transfer, by taking his mother to a lawyer to execute and record the property deed.  In our estimation, our client’s brother had violated the Adult Protective Services Act, by exploiting his mother and transferring her property to himself during her lifetime.  Accordingly, we filed a lawsuit to undo the property transfer.

About the same time, our client’s brother was arrested by the FBI and was charged with armed bank robbery with the use of a purported bomb.  While in prison awaiting trial, the brother was in contact with at least one person to whom he provided a key to the house, and he asked that person to remove personal property from the premises.  In addition, the brother announced his intention to place a lien on the house in order to retain private legal counsel in connection with the pending bank robbery charges.  Based on this information, we successfully obtained a restraining order from the court, prohibiting the brother from transferring or encumbering the property until the lawsuit was concluded.

In the lawsuit, we alleged that, at the time of the property transfer, our client’s mother was unable to protect herself from exploitation by her adult son because of physical or mental impairment, that the son was in a position of trust and confidence to his mother, and in that position, he did not observe the standard of care in dealing with his mother’s assets that would be observed by a prudent person dealing with the property of another, but instead acted for his own self-interest and not for his mother’s benefit.  We also alleged that, at the time of the property transfer, the son by intimidation or deception, knowingly took control, title, use, or management over his mother’s assets with the intent to permanently deprive her of them.

The court entered judgment in our client’s favor, ruling that the brother had forfeited all benefits with respect to his mother’s estate, including those benefits provided by her Last Will and Testament, and any right, title or interest in the house.  In addition, our client was awarded attorney fees in the amount of $30,480, and costs in the amount of $1,160.  Our client has since sold the house.

The information contained in this article should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any matter discussed. The contents are intended for general information purposes only. Always consult a qualified attorney for legal advice on a specific matter.