Gray & Fassold, Trust and Probate Litigation Attorneys

Gray & Fassold, P.C.

Trust and Probate Litigation | Elder Law | Mediation

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Representative Matters

Case Summaries

Following are summaries of cases that illustrate the scope of trust, guardianship, elder protection and litigation services frequently performed by Alisa Gray and James Fassold.

These cases involve issues that include fiduciary defense, spousal rights in determining medical treatment, contested conservatorship, serving as guardian ad litem, issues involving second marriages and adult step-children, financial exploitation of elderly persons, family disputes, trustee malfeasance, and trust administration.

Fiduciary Defense

After the defendant murdered the plaintiffs’ father, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit (Koury v. Dobben). The defendant was an eccentric desert dweller who did not have insurance but was worth over $2 million in securities and real property. We represented the defendant’s fiduciary in the wrongful death case and worked closely with the civil defense attorney and criminal defense attorneys to bring a resolution to this matter.

Legal Malpractice

In this third-party complaint (Causey v. AHCCCS), we represented an agent for the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the State of Arizona’s Medicaid agency. AHCCCS brought a legal malpractice case against an attorney it had retained to secure its creditor rights against various decedents’ estates. The case was quite complicated because of the triangulation of parties in interest. We were able to help negotiate a settlement that provided our client with the ongoing business relationship with the State while securing certain funds from the defendant law firm for malpractice.

Spousal Rights in Medical Treatment

In a matter reminiscent of the Terry Schiavo case, we represented the husband of a young woman who was rendered paraplegic, with severe spasticity, as a result of a serious cardiac event. The cardiac event occurred approximately two weeks after she gave birth to her first child. As is common in these situations, the husband and the mother-in-law had various disputes regarding her care plan. When the husband asserted his spousal rights to direct the care, the mother-in-law brought a guardianship proceeding, arguing that she should be appointed as guardian for her adult daughter because the husband had barred the mother-in-law from the hospital room. The mother-in-law had no medical evidence to support her allegations. We moved for and were granted summary judgment, as the court found no evidence to support the mother-in-law’s petition. The mother-in-law appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. Note: This matter was handled largely on a pro bono basis.

Contested Conservatorship

Our client was appointed as Successor Conservator to investigate why the inheritance of three orphaned minor children had been left in a non-interest-bearing account with the Clerk of the Court for over seven years. We determined that the attorney for the former conservator was completely unfamiliar with probate court procedures, including accountings. For almost seven years, he tried but failed to produce an accounting. In the meantime, the minors were in serious need of additional funds. On behalf of our Successor Conservator client, we brought a surcharge action against the former conservator and a legal malpractice action against the attorney. Because the amount in question was relatively modest (the lost interest on approximately $250,000 worth of assets), we were careful to utilize only as much in expenses as was absolutely necessary. We were able to reach an out-of-court settlement that was beneficial to the children’s estates.

Guardian ad litem

Alisa Gray was appointed as guardian ad litem for a potentially vulnerable or incapacitated man who had been abused by his wife, who had married him in an attempt to manipulate the corporate trustee. We assisted in removing her client from his home, which had become a “flop house” for known drug users. We found suitable housing for him and his dogs and arranged for assistance with his financial and medical affairs. He now lives a mostly independent life style, with assistance as needed from his fiduciary and his court-appointed attorney.

Adult Step-Children

We represented the surviving spouse of a man who died leaving nine children from a previous marriage. The surviving spouse and the decedent had numerous business affairs together but were in the process of a divorce when he passed away. We helped the surviving spouse negotiate a settlement with her step-children to reduce her exposure for the various business affairs and to provide some closure to her on a very difficult chapter of her life.

Financial Exploitation

Our client was an elderly lady who suffered from dementia. Despite her significant assets, she insisted on living alone in a small rundown house in central Phoenix. A young man befriended her and took control of her finances. Representing the family, we had him removed as a signer from all of her accounts and barred him from contacting her. We arranged for her move to a more suitable residence, facilitated the sale of her property and secured all of her assets in safe investments. She lived the rest of her life in safety and comfort, and our actions in cleaning up her estate plan prevented any post-death complications or disputes.

Family Dispute

Representing a private fiduciary company, we were asked to intercede in a dispute between a son and the brother of an elderly man who suffered from dementia. We resolved the dispute without protracted litigation and managed his assets for the rest of his life. Although the distrust among family members was high, the intervention of a neutral third party helped to reduce the tension and prevented his assets from being exhausted in court battles.

Trustee Malfeasance

After her mother died, our client was stunned to learn that our client’s brother, acting as co-trustee of their parents’ trust, had withdrawn so much money from the trust’s accounts that there was not enough money to make distributions to charities as required by the trust. When negotiations proved fruitless, our client was forced to litigate. We obtained several favorable preliminary rulings that encouraged the parties to finalize a settlement that fulfilled the parents’ wishes.

Trust Administration

A national trust bank engaged us to help administer two trust estates, against a backdrop of considerable family acrimony. Although the beneficiaries initially distrusted us as much as they distrusted the bank and each other, we were able to administer and close both estates without resorting to litigation.