Picking someone you “Trust” for Estate Planning: The Sad Cases of Elder Exploitation

Elder Financial Exploitation: Undermining Estate Planning

Ward Knutson was entrusted to help his mother with her estate planning needs.  Instead, Mr. Knutson allegedly stole over $800,000 from his mother, Doris Knutson, 87, for his personal benefit.  This reportedly included supporting his gambling habits, phone sex,  and luxury cruises.  Mr. Knutson was recently convicted in Hennepin County District Court and sentenced to pay over $100,000 in restitution and to server 20 years of probation.  Mr. Knutson only avoided a prison sentence because the judge wanted to give him the opportunity to pay his mother back.

The stories are too familiar.  They seem to pop up almost daily.  An often vulnerable elderly person selects a family member who they trust to administer their financial or personal affairs.  These cases highlight the importance of both properly drafting legal documents and obtaining oversight regarding how they are administered.  But perhaps most important of all, it underscores the importance of selecting someone you trust and who will work with your best interests in mind.

Estate Planning Documents and the Persons You Appoint

The trust issue is especially relevant if you’re considering creating any of the following:

  • Will (you’ll appoint a personal representative)

  • Trust instrument (you’ll appoint a trustee)

  • Financial power of attorney (you’ll appoint an attorney-in-fact)

  • Health care directive (you’ll appoint a health care agent)

In all of these estate planning situations you may be appointing someone to handle your affairs.  Whether as a primary fiduciary or as an alternate, it’s critical to pick someone you can trust.  Don’t take the decision lightly. Consult family and friends you trust, financial professionals, and an attorney.  These individuals will help you both personally and legally examine all of the relevant factors to your situation.  This will allow you to make the most informed choice possible for how you manage your affairs.


All of the materials available in this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between Majeski Law, LLC and anyone who uses it.

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Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.