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In re Estate of Lowrie
California Court of Appeal
118 Cal. App. 4th 220, 12 Cal. Rptr. 3d 828 (2004)
After her husband died, Laura Lowrie created a pour-over will and trust, which placed most of her $1 million in assets in a trust while she was alive. Laura named herself as trustee, with her son, Sheldon Lowrie (defendant), next in line and cherished granddaughter Lynelle Goodreau (plaintiff) next after him to manage the trust. Under these documents, when Laura died, Goodreau was to receive one of Laura’s two houses, and Laura’s two other children were each to get $10,000. The rest of Laura’s property, which was most of her assets, was to go to Sheldon first or else to Goodreau if Sheldon died before Laura. Lastly, Laura named Sheldon as the future executor of her estate and Goodreau as the next executrix in line if Sheldon were unavailable. However, over the next several years, Sheldon abused and manipulated Laura and isolated her from the rest of her family. For example, Sheldon refused to let family visit Laura, locked her in her house using a security door, duct taped her telephones to prevent calls, delayed getting her medical care, and did not help her with her personal hygiene. During this time, Laura amended the trust to change Goodreau’s gift of the house to just a $10,000 payment. Laura then transferred that house and all of Laura’s personal property to Sheldon. Laura also resigned as trustee, and Sheldon became the trustee who handled Laura’s assets. After Laura died, Goodreau challenged the distribution of Laura’s estate. Goodreau sought, among other actions, to void the trust amendment, set aside the house transfer to Sheldon, make Sheldon pay damages, and have Sheldon disinherited. The trial court found that there was clear and convincing evidence that Sheldon had abused Laura through neglect, isolation, and financial abuse. The trial court disinherited Sheldon and ruled that he owed damages of approximately $250,000 for pain and suffering, $665,000 for financial abuse, $390,000 for Goodreau’s attorney’s fees, $33,000 in litigation costs, and $50,000 in punitive damages. Sheldon appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Aldrich, J.)
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