Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, September 8, 2023


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Man Ousted as Trustee When Murder Charge Was Pending Properly Denied Reinstatement—C.A.


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A man who was charged with murdering the woman who had adopted him as her son, and, in light of the prosecution, was removed by the Superior Court as trustee of the estate, and who did not timely appeal from that order, was properly found to lack standing to petition for reappointment as the trustee once the charges were dismissed and his reappointment arrest record was expunged, Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal held yesterday.

Riverside Superior Court on March 24, 2020, granted the petition of Caroline Lee Holmes to oust Giovanni Cazares as trustee and to name her in his place. The trustee of the Estate of Lerae Britain Moeller Bush had discretion to designate the beneficiaries of nearly all of the assets.

After he was exonerated, Cazares moved for reinstatement of trustee, but on June 28, 2022, Judge John G. Evans denied the petition, saying that the March 24, 2020 order constituted the “law of the case.”

“From one point of view, this seems deeply unfair,” Presiding Justice Manuel A. Ramirez said in his opinion affirming the 2022 order.

He continued:

“Cazares had been removed as trustee because of the criminal charges against him. Once he was a free man, it would seem he should be entitled to be trustee again; at a minimum, it would seem he should have standing to request reappointment.

“Another point of view, however, is that the moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on. Cazares had to be removed—if only because he was in jail and unable to fulfill the duties of trustee; he conceded as much below. Holmes, in her capacity as trustee, was entitled to choose the beneficiaries. The trial court ruled that Cazares lacked standing to oppose her doing so. Because he failed to file a timely appeal, he must be deemed to have acquiesced in that ruling. He is not allowed to undermine it now.”

Ramirez said that although legal errors underlie the 2020 order, “[b]ecause Cazares did not file a timely appeal” from it, “it is binding on him.”

The case is Estate of Bush, E079439.


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