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Undue Influence by clergyman - hire victim's past attorney?

Discussion in 'Power of Attorney & Living Wills' started by AMcWid, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi there,

    My elderly, widowed aunt is dying, and we recently found out that the pastor of her church has had his name put on all of her bank accounts and assets with survivorship. He also has been recently named Power of Attorney (my mother held dual Power of Attorney, along with a cousin for many years, and we only just found all of this out, on arriving at the hospital.) My aunt has employed the same attorney for many years - he handled the drawing up of her will, and other small legal needs that she had over the years, and we've learned that this Pastor hired a new attorney (with no prior or personal knowledge of my aunt's history) to change her estate plans. He has been isolating her from friends and family for the past two years (even going so far as removing the phone from her hospital room so that family from out of town could not reach her), and is an opportunistic, conspiring piece of human garbage.

    We are going to file a suit to recover her assets, because it's textbook financial abuse through undue influence, but my question is this - Is it a conflict of interest to employ my aunt's lawyer to handle the case? He knows all of her prior plans, and knows her family relationships. BUT, since he was initially supposed to handle her estate upon her passing, and now will not be, could it be seen as a personal vendetta on his part by the defense? We are meeting with him on Friday, and are wondering if he'd be a more appropriate witness than representation. Not sure what the precedent is.

    Thank you so much - we appreciate the help.
     
  2. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    How old is your Aunt? Does she suffer from any medically documented cognitive/neurological issues...ie...Alzheimer's, Dementia?
     
  3. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    urgh!! My question is in the body of the quote of your opening post...sorry. I can't edit to correct...:(
     
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  4. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Here is justblue's question:


    How old is your Aunt? Does she suffer from any medically documented cognitive/neurological issues...ie...Alzheimer's, Dementia?
     
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  5. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    She has cancer, and is 100 years old - vulnerable, physically dependent, but not cognitively impaired. The pastor approached her while she was bedridden in the hospital, and told her that her family "just wants her money." (Mind you, he's met us, but hardly knows us. We love her, and unlike him, have never been after her money. He's an absolute charlatan.) She is visited by members of our family at least once or twice a week (for many years, not just during her illness) and has been close with family for her entire life. Until last year (when she became ill and this pastor descended on her), her estate was to go to family. (I should also note that the pastor told one of the nurses at the hospital, upon her first admittance, that she HAS NO FAMILY. Unimaginable. Obviously, that was set straight 30 minutes later, when my mother actually arrived at the hospital, and that nurse told her what had been said.) Now that she's dying and he has what he wants, he never visits her anymore (the nurses know what he is, and are keeping us informed when we visit.)

    She was in need of a new washer and dryer a few months ago. My mom offered to take her shopping for a new set, and she said she had to wait until the pastor was back in town from vacation because he had her checkbook and all of her credit cards! That was in January, so she has had no access to HER OWN MONEY for at least the past 7 months. We knew what he was up to, but didn't know until recently that it was illegal.

    So, is it appropriate to employ her previous attorney, or would it be considered a conflict of interest? We're meeting with him on Friday.

    Thanks for your response!
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  6. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    I would ask the attorney if it would be a conflict. Is your Aunt on pain med's? If so...what kind?
     
  7. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    She is on Valium currently - it's palliative care at this point. I'm unsure if she was on painkillers when he convinced her to make the changes (I'd say it was likely, because her leg was broken due to cancer that ate through the bone - would have to confirm with her doctor) but she was certainly weak and vulnerable. She puts great trust in men of the cloth - her deceased husband was an episcopal priest, so this predator just put her right in his pocket. Most heartbreaking is the fact that he created mistrust of the people who actually love her. We're sick over that.

    I'll ask her attorney if he thinks it's a conflict - thank you for the advice. He's horrified by this whole situation, as he's known her for 40 years.

    Appreciate your help. We don't even care about the money - we just want this "priest" to be exposed for the fraud he is. Wish us luck.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
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  8. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    I do wish you luck..."people" that take advantage of the elderly/sick make me ill. Please keep us updated on how this goes...

    Blue
     
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  9. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you so much - I absolutely will.
     
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  10. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    What exactly do you mean that he "has had his name put on all of her bank accounts and assets with survivorship"? Do you really mean that your aunt chose to put this man's name on these assets?

    An attorney cannot change her estate plans without her signing off on it.

    For starters, it's not clear who "we" are, but nothing you have posted suggests you have standing to do anything. If "we" want to hire your aunt's former attorney, then this is a question you should ask him, and he can evaluate the issue under the applicable state law.

    This appears to be a question about perception and not a legal question.
     
  11. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. "We" refers to her family. The priest has been in the picture for a few years now, and we've learned that he coerced her to change her estate plans (after knowing her for only several months). He took her to a different attorney, knowing that her attorney of many years would see red flags and question the decision.
    We (her family) will ask the attorney if there's any conflict in his representing us - was just wondering if there was any general precedent before meeting with him. There are state laws in place that stand to prevent this kind of exploitation and financial abuse by a person in a position of influence, thankfully.
    We appreciate your response.
     
  12. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    That's true, but you didn't identify the relevant state, so there's no way to point you toward a source of that information.
     
  13. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Ahhh, indeed. Sorry! It's New York state.
     
  14. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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  15. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    PayrollHRGuy, Thank you!
     
  16. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    UPDATE: The "priest" has looted my aunt's home. While trying to retrieve the dress my aunt wishes to be buried in, we found all drawers empty, every piece of jewelry gone, not even a pair of underwear left to bury her in. We are absolutely sickened.
    Additional, we received a call late today from an antique consignment shop about 30 miles away (the owner happens to be a neighbor of a friend) letting us know that the priest has been in trying to sell her valuables BEFORE SHE IS DEAD. We had consulted with her attorney a few days ago (he is consulting with a few elder law attorneys) but we are calling the district attorney first thing in the morning. My aunt is still alive, and he is secretly selling her things. This is criminal, no?
     
  17. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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  18. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Yes.
     
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  19. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I advised my mother to do this (she had been the executor / power of attorney before the "priest", and has the most information,) and she did call. The course of action was to be a referral to an attorney who specializes in elder law, which is something we're already doing.

    The thought from the attorney was that, since she is still living, no crime has been committed yet. He said there was no path forward until she actually passes, and the transfer of assets occurs. But now that he has gone and sold her possessions from under her, my thought was that a crime has been committed, and we don't need to wait to act. Hoping that's the case, because he's doing all of this as quickly as he can, and he needs to be stopped.
    We called the DA, and have a meeting set up with an investigator tomorrow.

    Thanks very much for your reply
     
  20. AMcWid

    AMcWid Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you. I thought it must be. We called the DA this morning, and a meeting with an investigator has been set up for tomorrow. I'm unsure of what the next steps are, but I'm looking forward to getting it done and putting it behind us. The anguish on top of the grief surrounding my aunt's final days has been just about unbearable. This guy is no priest.
     

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