One Lincolnton lawyer’s actions reminds families that it’s important to know who you’re trusting your estate planning to.
In 2010, a Denver man who was on his death bed put his trust in a Peter Capece, a Lincolnton attorney, to manage a trust account worth $1.5 million. The man, Fritz Detmers, had accumulated most of his fortune through investment funds. The trust account was meant for his grandson.
However, a report from the North Carolina State Bar found that Mr. Capece spent nearly $1 million of the trust fund money on himself. Capece took luxurious vacations, made mortgage and Best Buy credit card payments, and even purchased a diamond ring for his new wife.
Local authorities are still trying to determine the best course of action to seek full restitution from Capece. Capece has been disbarred and has surrendered his law license. The NC State Bar’s deputy counsel, Margaret Cloutier, stated that Capece’s disbarment is the “ultimate level of discipline” that the Bar can hand out.
Capece was named trustee by Fritz Detmers and was granted the discretion to distribute the money to Detmer’s grandson for his education, health and welfare. Detmers’ grandson was to inherit the full balance of the trust account when he reached the age of 30.
After turning 18, Detmer hired new attorneys because Capece was not filing the required reports about the account’s status or sharing information. The new appointed administer of the estate, Michael Allen, discovered that Capece had depleted the entire trust account by misappropriating the funds.
Capece would routinely transfer funds out of the trust account into his own personal accounts. Over $5,000 was spent on a luxury vacation, and shortly after, he spent $9,200 on an engagement ring.
In addition to making mortgage payments and paying off credit cards, Capece also shopped around a valuable coin collection once belonged to Detmers. Capece would ultimately sell the collection for around $30,000.
According to Margaret Cloutier, the State Bar has a special Client Security Fund that provides compensation to clients who wind up becoming victims of dishonest lawyers. While the pool is limited, some of those funds may be used to compensate Fritz Detmers’ grandson.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.