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Cook v. Brateng
Washington Court of Appeals
262 P.3d 1228 (2010)
Elmer Cook created a living trust to provide for his own care during his lifetime. After Elmer’s death, the remainder of the trust would go primarily to his daughter, Diane Brateng (defendant), and his son, John Cook (plaintiff). The trust contained a provision requiring the trustee to report the trust’s financial activities to any income beneficiaries at least twice per year. Initially, Elmer and Brateng were cotrustees. As Elmer aged, he became incompetent, and Brateng became the sole trustee. Elmer had a nurse-caregiver for a period of time, but Brateng then became Elmer’s full-time caregiver. Brateng eventually moved Elmer into her house, where she cared for him for several years until his death. Brateng also cared for Elmer’s own house during this time. While Elmer was alive, John never asked Brateng for an accounting of the trust’s activities or inquired about the trust’s finances. After Elmer died, the trust contained Elmer’s house and approximately $16,500 in cash. Brateng submitted a claim to the trust for about $142,000 in unpaid caregiving expenses and services for the years that Brateng had cared for Elmer instead of paying for a nurse. Brateng’s claim was based on carefully maintained records of her expenses and time. John sued Brateng, claiming that Brateng was required to inform him before she made the decision to charge Elmer’s estate for her caregiving services instead of getting a mortgage on Elmer’s house to pay for a nurse to provide that care. The trial court found that Brateng had breached her duty to inform John about her intent to charge for her caregiving services and, therefore, could not now collect for these services. Brateng appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bridgewater, J.)
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