Grethe Jensen had two daughters, Kari in California and Trine in Utah. Kari urged her 89-year-old mother to sell her house and buy a place jointly with Kari in Ventura so that Kari could care for her. Things soon went sour: renovations to the house allegedly left Grethe confined to a small space. After the dementia-stricken Grethe was found wandering outside, Trine brought her home to Salt Lake City. There, Grethe signed papers giving Trine power of attorney over her finances and appointed her as trustee over her living trust—and cut Kari out as a beneficiary.
Trine, as Grethe’s guardian ad litem, filed suit against Kari to partition the sale of the Ventura house and for financial elder abuse. Kari filed a countersuit against Trine as an individual claiming intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Trine moved to quash service of summons on the ground that California lacks personal jurisdiction over her. The Ventura County Superior Court granted that motion.
The appeals court agreed that Trine lacked a close enough relationship with the State to have given California courts personal jurisdiction over her. Trine only helped her mother file the litigation in the State because the real estate was in California—her only business in California was as her mother’s guardian ad litem.
Anyone acting in a legal capacity—such as a trustee, personal representative, or guardian ad litem—may encounter questions of personal jurisdiction. Be sure to consult with an estate attorney to determine exactly where you stand. Jensen v. Jensen, 31 Cal5th 682 (2019).
About the Author:
John O’Grady leads a full-service estate and trust law firm in San Francisco. His practice includes Estate Planning & Administration, Probate and Trust Litigation.