Probate & Trust Litigation

A resource for lawyers and the public in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for information on will contests, trust disputes, guardianships, conservatorships, elder exploitation, fiduciary duty claims, and other probate litigation disputes.

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A Suspected “Sweetheart Swindle”

Many of our cases involve actual or suspected financial exploitation of the elderly in which a claim is made that someone took advantage of the cognitive and/or emotional vulnerability of an older person to gain financial enrichment from “gifting” of assets, changes in financial accounts, and/or rewriting of estate plans.  While the typical case involves a child exploiting a parent, there are also serial predators who target vulnerable adults.

Entitled “A New Wife, a Secret Past and a Trail of Loss and Blood,” this New York Times article chronicles the befriending of a rich older widower by a much younger woman with a troubling history of alleged exploitation.  The police warned him that that they had reason to believe he was the victim of a so-called “sweetheart swindle.”  Lonely and undeterred, he married her.  The marriage did not go well.  In his divorce filing, he wrote, “Defendant scammed me out of at least $1,836,725.”  Sadly, that was not the end.  “She asked him to reconsider and marry her again.  She promised things would be better.”  They remarried, but “[t]he changes she promised didn’t happen.”  He is divorcing her again, perhaps for the last time.

(Note: Ralph Holmes is currently retired from McLane Middleton. For information on this or other probate litigation issues, please contact Alexandra Cote at