Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorney Notes Case of the Untrustworthy TrusteeFebruary 27, 2012 9:42 pm Asset Protection, California Trusts, Estate Planning, Trust Litigation
A Riverside County, Calif. Superior Court judge has awarded more than $18.2 million to a California woman and her brother, who accused two half-siblings of enriching themselves at the expense of their inheritance, according to a National Law Journal article.
Thomas Barnes of Corona, Calif., died in 2001, leaving assets in a trust for his four children – two from his first marriage, and two from his second marriage. The two children from his second marriage – Brittnee and Shane Barnes – were minors at the time of Thomas Barnes’ death. The two older siblings from the first marriage – Thomas Barnes Jr. and Kristine Barnes – were named trustees.
In 2010, Brittnee Barnes petitioned the court to remove the two older half-siblings as trustees, claiming that they had misused trust assets to enrich themselves. In 2011, the court found that the two older siblings had breached their fiduciary duties and appointed an independent trustee.
Additional discovery was also ordered, as it was alleged that a number of assets were missing from the estate, including 1,852 ounces in gold from a safety deposit box. On Feb. 1, the court ordered Thomas Barnes, Jr. to turn over to his younger half-siblings the value of the gold, outstanding probate assets, as well as investments he made in auto dealerships and distributions he made to himself. The award was doubled under a California Probate Code section that allows double damages against trustees who are found to have taken trust assets in bad faith.
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