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Do You Really Want To Use That Power Of Attorney To Give Yourself Something?

September 21, 2016

Authors

Luke Lantta

Do You Really Want To Use That Power Of Attorney To Give Yourself Something?

September 21, 2016

by: Luke Lantta

In Georgia, an agent acting under a power of attorney can give himself the principal’s property at the principal’s direction.  The Georgia Supreme Court reaffirmed that maxim in Anderson v. Anderson.

There, less than a week before the principal’s death, the agent used a power of attorney to execute a deed conveying to himself 280 acres of the principal’s property and another 500 acres of the principal’s property to himself and his siblings. The trial court set aside the deeds on the grounds of a breach of fiduciary duty.  The Georgia Supreme Court reversed and remanded because there was some evidence that the agent executed the deeds at the principal’s request.  There can be no breach of fiduciary duty when an agent acts pursuant to the principal’s express direction or with

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Can A Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Land A Fiduciary In Jail?

March 21, 2013

Authors

Luke Lantta

Can A Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Land A Fiduciary In Jail?

March 21, 2013

by: Luke Lantta

We spend a lot of time here looking at civil cases involving corporate and individual fiduciaries.  That doesn’t mean that the wrongful acts underlying a breach of fiduciary duty can’t also pose criminal problems for a fiduciary.  Occasionally a criminal fiduciary case catches our attention, like the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee’s opinion in Elkins v. Gibson (link provided through Justia.com).  This was a case where a fiduciary sued a police detective for malicious prosecution stemming from a warrant issued for the fiduciary’s alleged theft from his principal.  The fiduciary was arrested but was not convicted of any crime.  Why we’re interested is because the alleged theft took place using a power of attorney.

The federal court dismissed the plaintiff’s case finding that the detective was entitled to qualified immunity.  Specifically, the federal court found that at the time the objectionable warrant was issued, the

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Georgia Will And Revocable Trust Were Invalid Products Of Undue Influence

August 7, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Georgia Will And Revocable Trust Were Invalid Products Of Undue Influence

August 7, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

Let’s just jump right into this one: in 2010, a Houston County, Georgia jury declared that a Will and a Revocable Trust executed by Thomas Hines, Sr., in 2002 were invalid, as they were the product of undue influence.

In Davison v. Hines, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict.  The reason we just jumped right into the discussion of this case is because undue influence cases are fact-intensive.  So, let’s look at the facts that supported the verdict.

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Beneficiaries Removed From Accounts Lacked Standing To Sue

July 2, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Beneficiaries Removed From Accounts Lacked Standing To Sue

July 2, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

The issue of standing regularly arises in fiduciary litigation.   Generally, to establish standing to sue, a plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact, the injury must be traceable to the conduct complained of, and it must be likely that the injury will be redressed by a decision in the plaintiff’s favor.

Lack of standing can be a good defense in fiduciary litigation cases because many estate planning documents are ambulatory and can be changed at any time.  How can a person have suffered harm – an injury in fact – if they could have been written out of a will, taken off an account, or removed as the beneficiary of an insurance policy at any time?

The issue of standing in a fiduciary litigation context was recently before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Hill v. Clark (2012 WL 1903265). 

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Case Update: Rosenkrantz v. Feit

February 13, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Case Update: Rosenkrantz v. Feit

February 13, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

Just a quick case update to start the week.  In December, we wrote about a Florida appellate court’s decision in Rosenkrantz v. Feit in which the court of appeals allowed one attorney-in-fact to pursue a lawsuit against her co-attorney-in fact.

Last week, the same Florida court of appeals denied the appellee’s motion for rehearing, but substituted this new opinion for the one issued in December.

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Daughter Forged Power of Attorney And Exercised Undue Influence Over Father

October 28, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Daughter Forged Power of Attorney And Exercised Undue Influence Over Father

October 28, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

We’ll start and end the week here at BryanCaveFiduciaryLitigation.com with powers of attorney.  In order to abuse a power of attorney, there actually has to be one.   In Kubek v. Jones, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama recently determined that a decedent’s daughter forged a power of attorney so she could convert her father’s retirement benefits and life insurance policy to the exclusion of her stepmother.  And, as if the forgery wasn’t enough, she also exercised undue influence over her father.

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Ohio Attorney-In-Fact Abuses Power Of Attorney

October 24, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Ohio Attorney-In-Fact Abuses Power Of Attorney

October 24, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

There are so many ways to abuse powers of attorneys.  That’s why they’ve been referred to as “vehicles for fraud.”  While we’ve previously looked at ways in which they’ve been abused and our colleagues at Bryan Cave, Stephanie Moll and Mary McMath, have examined them in the context of “Who Can You Trust?” over at TrustBryanCave.com, the ways in which they can be abused are seemingly endless.  The reality is that these cases will continue to appear in increasing numbers as the Baby Boomers get older.

Last month, in Ward v. Patrizi, the Ohio Court of Appeals dealt with a a classic power of attorney abuse fact pattern.  A person who needed some help managing his bills designated a family member as his attorney-in-fact.  The attorney-in-fact dutifully paid the principal’s bills from his checking account, but, on the day

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Kentucky Grantor Was Not Unduly Influenced In Conveying Home To ‘Grandson’

October 12, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Kentucky Grantor Was Not Unduly Influenced In Conveying Home To ‘Grandson’

October 12, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

Perception — or perhaps more precisely, misperception — fuels so much fiduciary litigation.  For example, an elderly grantor may have perfectly legitimate reasons for conveying property to someone outside the family.  Even if the grantor’s reasons aren’t good, she is within her rights to make a completely unreasonable transfer so long as nothing afoul is afoot (e.g., lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, etc.).

But, when a blood relative learns of this transfer, a sense of entitlement kicks in, and we’re on our way to litigation.  The problem for these elderly grantors, who are under so much pressure to explain or change their decision, is that they oftentimes say or do anything to try to make everyone happy.  That never works.  And that was the sort of situation recently before the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

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Estate Beneficiary Prevented From Joining Lawsuit Against Caretaker

October 7, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Estate Beneficiary Prevented From Joining Lawsuit Against Caretaker

October 7, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

As a general rule, the personal representative of a decedent’s estate is usually the only person who can pursue an action to recover estate property.  It’s one of the personal representative’s fiduciary duties to estate beneficiaries.  Occasionally, in very limited circumstances, another person interested in the estate may be able to pursue an action in the personal representative’s place.  The Connecticut Court of Appeals determined that those limited circumstances were not present in Litwin v. Ryan.

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North Carolina Caveator Wins “Close” Undue Influence Case

September 16, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

North Carolina Caveator Wins “Close” Undue Influence Case

September 16, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

While it’s still rare for an undue influence case to make it to a jury, it seems that courts have been gradually loosening the requirements to allow more plaintiffs to present their cases to a jury.  Perhaps it’s simply a matter of numbers as more aging Baby Boomers are beginning to succumb to “old age and physical and mental weakness,” which opens the door to an undue influence claim.

Whatever the reasons, we are seeing more appellate decisions involving plaintiffs having won undue influence claims at the trial court level.  Earlier this month, in In the Matter of the Estate of Raney, the North Carolina Court of Appeals considered the appeal of a jury verdict in which a jury – after being presented with a lot of bad and good facts – concluded that the propounder of a will had exerted undue influence over the testatrix.  In light of these mixed

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