Representative Cases

Hon. David R. Chaffee (Ret.)
Mediator • Arbitrator • Discovery Referee

  • Petitioners, all children of deceased trustor, alleged that sibling respondent engaged in a pattern of undue influence to procure a pour-over will and trust in which respondent was the sole beneficiary. Respondent, a man in his 50s, had lived with his mother, the trustor, for many years while unemployed and utilizing mom’s credit cards. Petitioners alleged that respondent had systematically denied them access to their mother as her health was failing, and around that time respondent took his mother to an attorney to prepare a new will and trust. That attorney was deceased by the date of trial and unavailable to testify as to the circumstances or capacity of the trustor.

  • Competing petitions for conservatorship of elderly bedridden woman. The first petition was filed by the OC Public Guardian per police and hospital referral; the second by her unemployed adult son who had been living with the proposed conservatee for some time and was believed to have assaulted her. The court-appointed attorney for proposed conservatee waived jury and urged the court to appoint the public guardian.

  • An aging bank executive with a $6 million estate who was widowed in middle-age with four children, remarried and had two more children with his second wife. Now retired, the bank executive asked one of his children by his second marriage to serve as his trustee. That child had proposed his father invest in his start-up business, a request which was declined by the father. A new trust is established with the requested son as trustee and funded with trustor’s assets. Son, as trustee, then invested $4 million of trust assets in his own start-up business which shortly thereafter failed, losing all of the trust’s invested money. Most of the children from the first marriage petition for an accounting and surcharge for the lost funds. Trustee/son alleged that he acted at the direction of the trustor.

  • Complex conservatorship and multiple trust issues. Extremely successful businessman established spousal trusts funded with respective community assets with millions in each trust. His wife died and within months he meets and marries his second wife. Within two years, the businessman’s mental capacity is failing and his second wife places him in a board and care facility. Counter-petitions for conservatorship are filed by his second wife and by his daughter from his first marriage. Daughter petitions for an accounting and alleged prolifigate spending by new wife. Wife alleged that most of her husband’s assets in his trust had been depleted. She petitioned to invade the principal of the trust of first wife.

  • Two brothers are the sole survivors of their father. His will appointed one of the brothers to serve as executor and left his estate in equal shares to the brothers. Post distribution the executor claimed to have discovered a later dated will that left the entire estate to him and specifically excluded his brother. Action filed to recover the allegedly misdirected distribution.

  • Plaintiff sued his brother alleging violation of defendant’s fiduciary duties as trustee of a trust of which both were beneficiaries. The alleged breach of fiduciary duty included claims that defendant regularly withdrew money from a trust-related band account for his own benefit, donated trust money to an educational institution for the benefit of his spouse, lifted money to non-beneficiaries, disbursed more money to his own children beneficiaries than to other equal beneficiaries, utilized trust money to renovate and repair a residence, and improperly sold trust-owned oil stocks. A handwritten trust addendum purportedly executed the day before the truster suffered a stroke was also challenged.

  • Dispute between decedent’s daughter (trustee) and decedent’s second wife (widow and executor). Widow claimed that decedent’s daughter breached her fiduciary duty by paying estate taxes out of trust A, of which widow is the life beneficiary, rather than trust B, of which daughter is the beneficiary. Each party petitioned the court for declaratory relief, seeking a determination that certain proposed actions against the other would not violate the no-contest clauses in the will and trust.