Higgins v. Higgins

Estate of elderly plaintiff was entitled to a constructive trust when plaintiff’s son’s wife diverted to her own use funds that son and wife agreed to hold in a bank account for plaintiff’s benefit.  Constructive trust is an equitable theory of recovery available when (1) the plaintiff has a specific, identifiable interest in property and (2) the defendant has acquired or detains that property interest by some wrongful act.  The theory allows recovery when fairness and justice dictate recovery but the facts don’t fit a more readily recognizable claim.  Here, son held elderly step-mother’s money in a bank account in the son’s name but held for the benefit of the step-mother.  Before son died, he added his wife to the account with the express understanding that she would continue to use the money for step-mother’s benefit.  This arrangement established an express irrevocable trust which wife breached when she removed step-mother’s name from the account after husband’s death and began using the funds in the account for her own benefit.  Step-mother’s estate was entitled to imposition of a constructive trust.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5 (Kriegler, Acting P.J.); May 9, 2017; 2017 WL 1880923

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