A case that is currently making it's way through the San Francisco Probate Court demonstrates the importance of choosing the right person to be a trustee. Especially, in the case of a special needs trust.
The case involves the Fiorani Living Trust. The trust was executed in 2000 in order to provide for Lucia Fiorani, now aged 65, who suffers from developmental disabilities. At the time of the death of her parents in 2000, it held unencumbered real property in the Russian Hill neighborhood, a significant amount of tangible personal property, and cash totally $1.5 to $3 million. Lucia was the sole beneficiary of the trust. And when her parents died her cousin Ronal Mazzaferro became the successor trustee and remainder beneficiary with his mother becoming the second successor trustee. Mazzaferro also helped to draft this particular trust.
Now here's where things went wrong. Despite Fiorani being the sole beneficiary of the trust and the substantial assets that it contained, she had been living on the street and in homeless shelters from 2000 to 2009! And none of the assets were made available for her benefit.. Mazzaferro even began to convert the assets to his own benefit using sham corporations and other cohorts. He was subsequently removed as trustee after Fiorani filed a petition to have him removed. She is now seeking the return of the real property and $2 million in cash. And several people involved with the mishandling of her assets are being pursued under California's elder and dependent adult abuse statutes.
If you know someone who is disabled and not receiving the care and financial support they are entitled to by law, please speak up on their behalf and ask for an accounting and report any and all abuse to the proper authorities.
For more information on setting up and administering special needs trusts, please consult with a professional estate litigation Attorney.
*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be constituted as professional legal advice.