When someone radically changes her estate plan to favor someone else who was not mentioned in the original plan, charges of undue influence are common. However, proving undue influence can be difficult, which makes a recent case in San Diego interesting.
Svi Ljungwe was a longtime schoolteacher who amassed a small fortune through real estate dealings. In 2004, she created a Trust that would have divided her estate between four charities. However, that same year, Ljungwe’s last living child passed away and Ljungwe became increasingly unstable.
She wandered into an attorney’s office initially to ask about a restraining order. Over the next few years, she became increasingly attached to the attorney.
In 2008, a new Trust was drafted that left her entire estate to the attorney.
The U~T San Diego has the entire story in an article titled “Attorney ordered to pay $4.3M to trust.”
When Ljungwe passed away, the charities alleged that the attorney had unduly influenced her and drafted the Trust himself. A San Diego judge has essentially agreed with the charities.
The judge has not only ordered the attorney to pay back the money he withdrew from the Trust, but also to pay penalties in the amount of $2.6 million.
Undue influence is normally very difficult to prove.
If you suspect that it has occurred in an estate in which you are involved, contact an experienced estate attorney for advice.
Please contact our office today at 239-225-7911 to schedule an appointment with Barbara M. Pizzolato if you are interested in protecting your legacy and need to create or update your estate plan. You may also wish to attend one of our free seminars.
Reference: U~T San Diego (December 31, 2014) “Attorney ordered to pay $4.3M to trust”