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Julie Garber

Estate Administration Gone Wrong - Stealing From Siblings May Land Executor/Trustee in Jail

By March 12, 2010

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Last week Stephen Beal Berg, a Napa, CA resident, pled no contest to taking over $200,000 from his mother's estate that should have been divided equally among Berg and his four siblings. Berg was named as Executor/Trustee in his mother's estate planning documents and after she died in 2006 Berg asked his siblings for permission to take sole possession of the estate's most valuable asset, a home located in Napa, in order to save it from foreclosure. The siblings agreed and as part of the deal Berg was supposed to refinance the mortgage on the house and then take the cash he received from the equity in the property and divide it among him and his siblings. Instead, Berg pocketed over $221,000 in cash and also kept payments he received from renting the property for himself. Berg then proceeded to default on the mortgage and the home went into foreclosure in November 2009.

Berg's siblings became suspicious and asked Napa police to investigate, which led to Berg's arrest on February 3. According to Deputy District Attorney Michael Mautner, "Probate cases rarely result in criminal charges. The fact that an older brother charged with taking care of his mother's estate took so much money made it a particularly serious case."

Berg will be sentenced at a hearing on March 24.

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