I have evidence that the Trustee of the Trust that I am a beneficiary has stolen $15200. I believe that it is higher, but I do not have sufficient evidence at the moment to prove it, However I do believe that the discovery process will show the amount to be higher than $15,200. My question is do I need a lawyer to take the Trustee to court for fraud or can I turn over the evidence to the Attorney General or the Washtenaw County Prosecuting attorney.
You can always make a report with the police department. The process starts with law enforcement and then, if they see a potential crime was committed, the law enforcement agency forwards the reports and evidence to the prosecution with a warrant request. If the evidence is really complex, you may consider hiring a lawyer to help organize it and research what criminal laws may have been violated. Your lawyer could go with you to report the offense and provide a report that will make it easier for the police department to understand the facts and find the criminal statutes that may have been violated.
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Mr. Loren Dickstein, Esq.
LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.
3000 Town Center, Ste. 1310
Southfield, MI 48075
Fax: (248) 357-1371
Before going down the criminal path, I would immediately consult an estate planning attorney and get a formal legal opinion as to whether, based on the evidence, the trustee actually exceeded the scope of his/her trustee power. If the answer is yes, I'd question whether there is sufficient evidence to bring formal charges. If the answer is contingent on some other facts, I'd proceed with caution and wait until you are absolutely sure. Taking the chance otherwise will strain the relationship as well as rack up the legal fees on both sides.
Adam C. Aparicio
While it may be satisfying to see the embezzling trustee led off in cuffs, it may not help to get the money back. I would hire an attorney who can persuade the trustee to return what has been taken. You cannot threaten the trustee, but perhaps if it was explained that his actions are not in keeping with his duties as trustee and that you have proof of his actions perhaps he will return the money and resign as trustee. If he will not return the money, see if he will just resign. If he will do neither you do not have many options regarding protecting the trust other than going to the prosecutor.
You are going to need an attorney, because before you go about reporting the trustee's bad acts you will have to be absolutely certain that what the trustee has done is not permitted in the trust document. Trust agreements can be very complex and you may be wrong regarding the trustee's actions. If you are not wrong you will need the attorney anyway to bring an action to have the trustee surcharged and removed.
Do not be afraid to ascert your rights just be certain before acting.
I agree with Attorney O'Brien's advice. You need to be absolutely sure before you accuse someone of a crime. If there was, in fact, a crime, then the criminal action will probably not eat up trust funds, that much, although at least initially, the trustee is entitled to hire representation to defend himself.
A criminal action *may* result in repayment of the funds to the trust as a condition for lesser punishment, but if it does not, having the trustee incarcerated or fined is not necessarily going to help the trust beneficiaries.
You might also consider a civil proceeding in probate court as an alternative to the criminal action.
In either case, I believe you should consult with an attorney to make sure that you are on the right path.
Best of luck to you!