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  • Writer's pictureJerry Ipsen, CFE, MBA

Embezzlement and Stealing are a Common Occurrence

Attorney Scott Rahn who is a Trust, Estate, and Probate Litigator tells us that trust embezzlement and stealing is more common than you might think. Embezzlement is a form of theft and is a crime. In the case of family trusts, embezzlement refers to the misappropriation of funds belonging to the trust, or to the decedent that should belong to the trust but were stolen before their passing. A trust litigation attorney handles the civil litigation (monetary relief) aspect of an embezzlement case, not the criminal case. Any beneficiary or trustee may choose to only prosecute an embezzlement claim in a civil court, without asking for criminal charges to be filed. 

Rahn tells us that a trustee can steal from a family trust? A trustee is the individual or entity charged with managing the trust. It is the trustee’s duty to make responsible decisions with the trust fund assets. A trustee typically cannot take any funds from the trust for him/her/itself — although they may receive a stipend in the form of a trustee fee for the time and efforts associated with managing the trust. If trust beneficiaries feel that the trustee is stealing funds, they should ask the trustee to account (report on what they’ve done with trust assets). If through the accounting, or otherwise, beneficiaries learn that a trust stole money, they can charge the trustee with breaching their fiduciary duty and have them removed and surcharged. The beneficiary’s goal here is to recover the funds for the trust, and if successful the trustee may be allowed to recover his/her/its attorney’s fees and costs.

Jerry Ipsen, a CFE can assist probate and trust attorneys by providing forensic accounting, the gathering of evidence, investigation of claims as well as testimony in a court setting.

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