Case Review: Tepper v. Wilkins – How Standing Impacts Litigation in Elder Abuse Actions

This case involves an intrafamily dispute where one sibling brings a suit claiming the other siblings are committing elder abuse against their mother. Eileeen has four children involved in this action: Geoffey, Derek, Martha, and Belinda. All the children but Belinda are serving as co-trustees as of Eileen’s revocable living trust.


Belinda brought a suit against her siblings claiming elder financial abuse, but Belinda did not claim she was harmed personally by the siblings’ actions, nor that she had standing as Eileen’s attorney-in-fact or conservator to bring the claim.

The Second District Court of Appeal reviewed Belinda’s appeal under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, Welfare and Institution Code § 15600 et seq. Special standing rules apply under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, including that an action can be brought either by the elder or the elder’s personal representative when the elder is alive and lacks capacity or is of an unsound mind.

The elder’s personal representative, however, is not just anybody with a familial relation to the elder. Rather, the personal representative is one who is either “(1) [a] conservator, trustee, or other representative of the estate of an elder or dependent adult” or “(2) [a]n attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult who acts within the authority of the power of attorney.” (§ 15610.30, subd. (d)). An intestate heir affected by the action may have standing to bring a claim, but standing only arises after the elder’s death.

The court concluded that Belinda had no standing to bring the claim because Belinda was not Eileen’s conservator, trustee, other representative, or an attorney-in-fact. Rather, simply because Belinda was Eileen’s daughter did not afford her standing under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.

Tepper v. Wilkins is case number B269900 and was filed on April 19, 2012 in the Second District Court of Appeals.

I recommend working with an estate planning attorney to ensure your trustees or power of attorney is properly in place and explained to all affected family members to avoid intrafamily disputes. Litigation under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act is a costly endeavor – both financially and emotionally.


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Brian Russ is an estate planning attorney in West Sacramento, Yolo County, California. Call today to schedule an estate planning consult: (916) 750-5155.

Original post date: February 5, 2018.

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