Law School Case Brief
Estate of Lowrie - 118 Cal. App. 4th 220, 12 Cal. Rptr. 3d 828 (2004)
Standing for purposes of the California Elder Abuse Act, Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15600 et seq., must be analyzed in a manner that induces interested persons to report elder abuse and to file lawsuits against elder abuse and neglect.
A granddaughter brought an elder abuse civil lawsuit pursuant to the California Elder Abuse Act, against an uncle, who was the trustee of the grandmother after the death of her husband. The uncle was in charge of a grandmother's finances and during this time period, the uncle allegedly isolated and neglected the grandmother, caused her to change several trust documents, and committed acts of abuse. Thus, the granddaughter sought to have the uncle disinherited from the grandmother's trust pursuant to Prob. Code, § 259. According to the grandmother's estate documents, if the uncle predeceased the grandmother, the granddaughter was designated as the successor trustee and successor beneficiary of the estate. The court found that the granddaughter had standing to bring the elder abuse lawsuit and judgment was entered against the uncle.
Did the granddaughter have standing to file a case under the California Elder Abuse Act?
In affirming, the court determined that the granddaughter had standing to file the action under the California Elder Abuse Act. The court held that for the purposes of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, standing must be analyzed in a manner that induces an interested person to report elder abuse and to file lawsuits against elder abuse and neglect. A standing issue may be intertwined with other issues in elder abuse cases. Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15657.3, subd. (d), provides that the personal representative of the decedent or a person entitled to succeed to the decedent's estate has standing after the death of the elder to maintain an elder abuse lawsuit. Prob. Code, § 259, is a forfeiture statute that deems elder abusers to have predeceased the deceased abused elder. The granddaughter's contingency interest in the estate provided her with a strong incentive because she would inherit as the successor beneficiary if the uncle was deemed to have predeceased the grandmother. The court held that this was enough to give the granddaughter standing as an interested person to bring an elder abuse action against her uncle, who was the trustee and personal representative of the estate. The court held that any other conclusion would encourage abusers, particularly where the abuser was the trustee, personal representative and major beneficiary of the trust who could not be expected to bring an elder abuse lawsuit against himself.
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