Trust and Financial Exploitation
By Kent Berk on March 14th, 2014 in BLOG, Elder Abuse, Elder Law
What does it mean to be in a position of trust and confidence?
When pursuing claims that someone financially exploited a vulnerable adult, this question becomes key.
A recent court case explored this important question. The case involved Helen P. Kousoulas, Kalliope Marinis, and Sotirios Marinis.
According to the court ruling, Peter Jonnas suffered from a stroke in 1994. During the four months following his stroke, he was taken care of by his niece, Helen Kousoulas. While he was under her care, Jonnas designated Kousoulas as the executor of his trust. If he lived longer than his wife, his estate should be divided between Kousoulas and his two other nieces.
After he recovered and returned to his home, he continued contact with Kousoulas, who visited him several times each year and spoke with him weekly on the phone. She also handled his medical bills and wife’s funeral.
In 2000, Jonnas started to look for a full time caregiver; he found one a year later. Kalliope became a live-in caregiver, taking care of him until his death in 2008.
According to the ruling, “When Kalliope accompanied Mr. Jonnas on his doctor and hospital visits, she was represented to be his niece or wife.”
In 2006, Jonnas designated Kalliope as his power of attorney. He also amended his trust to give his home, furniture, property (two vacant lots), and shares of stock to Kalliope, instead of his three nieces. In 2008, Kalliope and her son accompanied Jonnas to the bank where he withdrew $200,000, and deposited $100,000 of those funds into a time deposit account in their name (not Jonnas) and another in a joint account with Kalliope and Jonnas.
In 2009, Kousoulas filed a suit against the Kalliope and her son, claiming that the pair manipulated a vulnerable adult into giving them the majority of his estate. Kousoulas claimed that Kalliope isolated him from his family.
The court, then later an appeals court, agreed with Kousoulas. In this case, the court found Kalliope, as Jonnas’s caregiver, to be in a position of trust. This position gave her the ability to exploit Jonnas, a vulnerable adult, because of his physical and mental impairment. Thus, the Arizona Adult Protective Services Act (APSA) applied.
Cases like these are clear examples of the importance of Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act. Under this act, vulnerable adults are protected from exploitation by people who are in a position of trust and confidence. The Act includes broad remedies. Those who have taken advantage of a vulnerable adult can be held liable, both criminally and civilly. If you have any questions regarding a financial exploitation claim, please let us know.