Can Lawyer Steal Money From Trust?

by Randy Fall
(Midwest City, Ok)

If a lawyer who set up a trust is the co-trustee, can he steal the money from the trust or are there laws to keep him from doing that?

About a year before my father died he put an amendment on the trust to make the lawyer the co-trustee after my mother passes. Before the amendment the succession was to make me or my siblings the co-trustees and then our children. I knew nothing about this change until just recently.

My mother is still alive for now but I don't want to wait until she dies to find out it is too late. My understanding from my father was we would have full control of all the funds and property in the trust to do with what we wanted.

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Jan 31, 2012
Trustee Cannot Steal
by: Mo Johnson

There definitely are criminal and civil laws against trustee's stealing from their trusts. Of course, the issue is normally whether what they did was authorized or not.

Without looking at the trust, and knowing more about what the trustee-lawyer could do, I can't say. It may be that there is a provision allowing reasonable trustee fees and so if he takes those fees, you may disagree about what is reasonable or not. This is why many localities now codify set fees that are presumed reasonable.

In any event, I take it your mom is the current trustee. You should talk to her about possibly amending the trust (if it allows her to do that) to take the attorney out of being a trustee.

And, of course, you'd be wise to discuss the issue with a local estate planning attorney.

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