Estate attorney’s actions called into question

May 4, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

Arroyo Grande estate and trust attorney Mike Zimmerman’s actions as the trustee of a large estate have led some to question his handling of a more than $2 million estate of an eccentric client.

“Zimmerman is, I felt, like a stranger who had come into our personal lives and stole from us,” said Lora Treadwell, the deceased’s only child. “. . . Like someone’s dirty fingers had been in my personal possessions.”

Law enforcement officials, along with family and friends of Terrance Treadwell, an Arroyo Grande survivalist who died in 2008, have been given different accountings by Zimmerman of how the man died and the whereabouts of the man’s personal belongings, including $154,000 in cash that was in the man’s home.

Everyone seems to agree that Treadwell, 71, passed away on April 28, 2008. His family and friends describe him as a recluse and a survivalist, who kept a hoard of guns and cash in his home.

On that date, around 2 a.m., someone called the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department and asked officers to check in on Treadwell. Deputies went to the home and discovered that he had died earlier that day.

They also discovered in the home a “do-not-resuscitate” order with Zimmerman’s name on it.

However, Zimmerman told CalCoastNews on Monday that he was not aware that he was the trustee of Treadwell’s estate until after the man died. He claims his father-in-law and deceased law partner had written the trust.

CalCoastNews repeatedly called Zimmerman for comment for this story since last Friday, and he returned the calls on Monday.

After the death, versions of what happened next remain murky.

Deputies called Zimmerman to the home. According to deputies, Zimmerman explained that the deceased had no living immediate family members. Sheriff’s deputies also allowed Zimmerman to leave the residence with almost $154,000 in cash that he discovered in a closet.

That amount differs from what Treadwell’s longtime girlfriend says was in the closet.

“He had just under $250,000 in the back corner of the closet in a box with a pillow and a rifle on top,” said Valen Guajardo, Treadwell’s long time girlfriend who said she was told by him about the large amount of cash.

Shortly before his death, she said, she helped Treadwell count the money, which was comprised of $100 bills stored in white envelopes.

Guajardo questions who might have called the Sheriff’s Department to ask deputies to check in on Treadwell since the man had very few friends, noting that he was a reclusive who made few acquaintances.

Guajardo, 58, a longtime friend of Treadwell’s, accuses Zimmerman of failing to follow Treadwell’s wishes.

“Zimmerman said he took the money from the house,” she said. “(Zimmerman) said they (deputies and Zimmerman) spent all night counting the money.”

Guajardo says she told Zimmerman the day after Treadwell died, that she would arrange for Treadwell’s burial. However, when she arrived three days after the death, Zimmerman had already ordered that Treadwell’s remains be cremated.

“There was no money set aside for a burial,” Zimmerman said.

However, Treadwell’s trust instructs Zimmerman to provide money from his trust to pay for a funeral, one he never got.

“I thought Zimmerman was very cruel and he didn’t handle it nicely,” Guajardo said. “I was very upset that he had decided to cremate him.

“This was a man that I love,” she said crying. “How could he do this to us.”

A month passed before Zimmerman told Lora Treadwell, the dead man’s daughter and only child, that her father had died. Other than an insurance policy, the daughter, who was noted along with Guajardo in the will, admitted that she had been disinherited by her father.

Nevertheless, she is outspoken about Zimmerman’s failure to tell her about her father’s death and what happened to his estate.

Lora Treadwell and her stepfather, Los Angeles attorney Kevin Kane, both remember Zimmerman telling them that the death was a suicide and that Treadwell had given all his animals away a few weeks before his death.

Zimmerman also said that his father-in-law and former partner had written up the trust and that he had not been aware he was the trustee and executor until after Treadwell died, Zimmerman told the daughter and Kane.

However, Zimmerman’s name is on trust documents written in 2005.

In addition, Guajardo said Treadwell had a collection of birds that had perished from smoke inhalation because of a pan he left on a burner more than eight months before his death.

The distraught Treadwell than decided to give his only remaining pet, a cockatiel, away to Guajardo.

Sheriff’s deputies said that the death, in fact, was not a suicide and did not even merit an autopsy.

An official with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, Senior Deputy Coroner Steve Crawford, said Treadwell’s doctor, who had seen him about three weeks earlier, attributed his death to heart failure.

In addition, the deputies said they were told by Zimmerman that Treadwell had no living relatives.

“He had no family,” Zimmerman said when asked why he had informed deputies that Treadwell had no family.

When informed that CalCoastNews had spoken to Treadwell’s daughter, Zimmerman said she was not a beneficiary because she had been disinherited by her father. He then claimed that he had not told police Treadwell had no immediate family.

In addition, though the estate was valued at more than $2 million, the money taken from Treadwell’s closet does not appear to be included in the estate’s final accounting.

Zimmerman said he put the $154,000 into a bank account and has since donated it to charity.

“I am shocked that anything as small as a pen was allowed to leave without an investigation,” Lora Treadwell said. “How is it allowed that a lawyer can leave with all that money?

“This is all so wrong,” she said. “I am frustrated and angry.”

Zimmerman, 57, has been practicing law for 31 years. Trust and estate attorneys prepare trusts and administer the estates of deceased persons.

Zimmerman married his wife, Joan, while studying farm management at Cal Poly. The father of eight children, he is currently running in the South County to replace 4th District Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, who is running for the state Assembly.

Zimmerman is one of three candidates seeking election to the supervisorial seat that Achadjian currently holds.

CalCoastNews first became aware of the Treadwell property while researching material for the three-part series about San Luis Obispo County Assessor Tom Bordonaro.

According to county computer records, Zimmerman had a homeowner’s exemption on both his own home as well as Treadwell’s home, each located in Arroyo Grande.

Following Treadwell’s death, Zimmerman stepped in as the trustee, executor and petitioner of the Treadwell trust and probate. In early 2009, Zimmerman placed Treadwell’s home — valued at $850,000 — and his Mitsubishi Eclipse Spider in his own name.

CalCoastNews recently e-mailed Zimmerman a copy of the assessor’s file that showed Treadwell’s home was owned by a Michael Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, in a telephone interview two weeks ago, said that he had never owned the property while noting the commonality of his name.

“That is a different Mike Zimmerman who lives in Shell Beach,” Zimmerman insisted. “Do you think I would be stupid enough to break the law for $700?”

In the interview Monday, Zimmerman said he was assuming it was a different property.

A closer check revealed that the computer readout did not match assessor’s file records and Zimmerman had not filed two homeowner’s exemptions. He had, in fact, owned both pieces of property.

“It was in the name of the trust and not my name,” he said.

When asked why Zimmerman had not sent the family a final accounting of the distribution of the estate, he responded, “They don’t have a right to an accounting.”

However, a local lawyer who specializes in estate law reviewed the trust and probate documents and told CalCoastNews that both Treadwell’s girlfriend and daughter had a right to a full accounting.

The lawyer, who asked not to be identified because of his relationships with people who may support Zimmerman in his race for county supervisor said that Zimmerman’s  statements were incorrect.

Zimmerman told CalCoastNews that he donated the bulk of the Treadwell estate to animal protection organizations to be selected by Zimmerman, though he admits that a small portion of the estate is to be distributed as directed in the near future.


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whatever

I can’t believe there are so many people out there that are so willing to believe whatever some news reporter says. We know how honest the media is!! I didn’t see a police report anywhere in that article, yet she says they were on the scene – if that’s the case, don’t you think our police are capable of making sure things are done legally? I would hope we would put more trust in them than in our media!!! This is obviously only coming out right now because of the campaign going on – if it was a real issue, it would have been looked into back when it first happened. Come on people! Stop being such busy bodies and believing idle gossip!


Saveslocounty

It was investigated by the Sheriff which is also the Coroner. The Coroner reports are public record so feel free to go look them up. I think most of the deputies are honest but to expect them to be well versed in estate and probate law is asking was too much. Besides, this article came to light while researching the Bordonaro wrong doings and was not politically driven. Let’s blame the media is like killing the messenger for bring bad news. Looks like a well researched article and must be supported. One wouldn’t go after an attorney unless they could support what was written or they would surely be sued. Bad timing for Mike.


BeenThereDoneThat

Hmm lets see now. Back last summer cops from SLO P.D. assisted in a bust of a laundrymat in Atascadero which they had totally wrong. Then also last summer they kicked down and pepper sprayed the eyes of a man (IN HIS OWN HOUSE MAY I ADD & by pring his eyelits open) who was the WRONG house.


Then we have the dope dealing due at the boarder and cops busting people trading a couple joints for cigs. at local Pozo festival. We have an elected official in office (Tom Bordano) with some questionable dealings, the table top dancing (I can’t find my gun) Chief of police in Paso.


Wait what was your question again?? Oh yea who do I trust. Well I am not a real big fan of media either but I have to say here on the Central Coast, I have a tendancy to listen to them a little more after all this bulls**t I mentioned. Oh and as for idle gossip. Yea they said the same thing about all the above to. Funny though that most of it has come to be true. Guess the rest of us here didn’t want to put our heads in the sand like yourself and act like bad things can’t happen if you carry a badge or are an electic official.


Cindy

So far I have not seen a single fact in this article disputed. Not one single person has been able to deny any of these facts or even provide an explanation for the Zimmerman’s questionable actions.


The only defense has been that Zimmerman is running for office and this article is politically driven!

PATHETIC.


OsborneCox

MODERATOR, thanks for your efforts to run a clean board here. Please inform Nancimeek that this ain’t all about her.


moderator

you have broken 2 rules of MODERATOR :-)

Rule One: never speak in thread about MODERATOR

Rule Two: never speak in thread about MODERATOR

please use my Email for comments like this, any comment using the word moderator is usually deleted on sight. I am leaving yours up just this once ;-)


Cindy

I hope Karen writes Nanci Meeks story because Nanci sure does have a story to tell. I’ve seen many of her documents including an opinion by one of the top forensic hand writing specialist in this country and I am not exaggerating his credentials, just can’ recall his name right now. He determined that a signature that appeared on a change to her fathers last will and testament is a forgery. I also saw a document signed by Grigger Jones and sent to the Bank of Hawii by Grigger affirming (swearing to) the fact that the signature is authentic and was signed in his office in California. When Grigger Jones was confronted he claimed that he had to idea how the forged document got into his files! Nanci Meek deserves a day when things will be “about her” for a change. We are all waiting on the DA to take action.

GRIGGER JONES deserves something to. His name just keeps emerging in piles of shit everywhere.


hotdog

Good luck waiting for our DA, he’s about as useful as our dear sheriff.


cheseburger

Cheseburger to hotdog maybe we should all call the D,A. and demand he follow up on detective Plums allegations of forgery by Robert M. Jones that he crawled over the grade with, did you know Robert M. Jones is a protem Judge for San Luis Obispo County, kind of puts him in that “above the law category”. Still not untouchable though they might need a fall guy!


ds_gray

This happened in 2008, but the guy at the center of the ‘he-said she-said she-said’ story is running for office THIS year. Hmm…


I call Shenanigans! Who called who to dredge this ‘news’ up? We have a weird guy with lots of cash, a daughter who was disowned by the weird guy aka ‘dad’ – but she’s still ‘concerned’ – and a ‘girlfriend’ who says she counted the cash just before the guy died? Then we throw in a lawyer who claims he was unaware he was a trustee of Weird Guy’s estate and is allowed by the cops to walk out of the house with a box of cash – er – evidence.


Too many questions! To start;

1) Who called the police at 02:00 to ‘check in’ on the dead guy? This should be a matter of public record – dispatchers ask for ID when you call,

2) Who really filled out the DNR form? Zimmerman didn’t – he denies knowing he was a trustee, so filling out the form would blow his alibi and be beyond stupid,

3) Was an investigation done on the ‘girlfriend’? She admitted handling the cash just before the man’s death, but claims the amount was wrong,

4) Why is the daughter even involved? She was disowned by the dad, emotionally and legally. She claims its ‘like a stranger going through her possessions’ – WRONG – wasn’t her stuff. This statement actually seems to back up the lawyer’s claim that he didn’t know he was the trustee – he WAS a stranger to the daughter because he wasn’t anyone she knew.


Just follow the money – and the motives. This is a hatchet job on the lawyer, either to ruin his election bid. Why else is this ‘news’? Might make a good ‘Law and Order’ script, though.


RU4Real

One thing I failed to mention, a couple years ago when I attended the West Coast Coroner’s Seminar in Los Angeles, not one single member of the SLO Sheriff’s Department was in attendance. Most notably absent was SLO Sheriff/Coroner Pat Hedges!!! He above all people should have attended that seminar to gain as much knowledge & training as possible for his “career”.


Nancimeek

How ironic Mr. Treadwell passed away on my father’s birthday. What can I say? Sounds so familiar with the exception that my father and I were very close. Grigger Jones still can’t answer the paper trail regarding the 1st Amendment (signed in Hawaii and two days later according to his affidavit signed AGAIN in his office by my father – signatures that the stepmother admits were not hers or my fathers) His wife told me I am a crazy person and I am sure Grigger has done his due diligence by painting a picture of my brother and myself as being loonie toons That’s the way the guy moves


Amazing what greed will do to people This guy Zimmerman has some questions that need answering Still haven’t heard anything from the SLO DA’s office They have had the case for over a month on Grigger Jones fraud charges……………………We have a trial in Hawaii in July and hopefully Grigger will finally answer our questions, but I am not holding my breath


Amazing how some people feel they are above the law Jones has a record for committing fraud (Gearhart case – Pe Ji Ho Ta Indian Casino ?) Hopefully KARMA will set in for both JOnes and ZImmerman Keep me posted and keep everyone in the loop


By the way, what happened to the casino hopes and dreams?


racket

Completely OT


Steve

Does anyone find it “odd” that this story was published just prior to elections? Please. Mr. Zimmerman is an honorable man and anyone who knows him would attest to this fact!


Nancimeek

Honorable people don’t rip DEAD people off and take advantage of them I suppose you are also of the opinion that Grigger JOnes and Kelly Gearhart are honorable people?


Nancimeek

Oh yeah Just in case you didn’t see this


http://youtube.com/watch?v=d_PiKumEPVU


This is part two which really reveals Grigger Jones


http://youtube.com/watch?v=vgVts2xiD5o


Never underestimate the love of a daughter for her father


whatever

Nancimeek, It’s interesting that you are so quick to judge, when you do not know all the details – I suppose you were there? Or you have at least had a personal conversation with Mr. Zimmerman? No? Didn’t think so! There are quite a lot of people in this community who personally know Mr. Zimmerman, and know that he would never do something like what this reporter is trying to make it look like – when you have been in a community as long as he has, you have a reputation – either good or bad – his happens to be good – where is there any other person who has had any kind of complaint about him of this sort – that would give any substance to what he is being accused of? Give me a break! I have known him for many years, and know for a fact that he would never stoop to something that low.


cheseburger

Whatever you are so wrong, Nanci Meek is oh so right and CCN has yet to be proven wrong, they have made many enemies, but still have always written the truth without so much as a slight error, this rich guy is crooked as a dogs hind leg and he got that way by ripping dead people off, seems a lot of us feel this way,”“This is all so wrong,” she said. “I am frustrated and angry.” so whatever or who ever you are, let him do your father’s probate,,, thought so,,, no takers!


whatever

cheseburger – so I guess you have talked to Mr. Zimmerman as well? I thought we lived in a country where you don’t condemn a person until it is proved beyond reasonable doubt, they actually did something wrong ( which would be in court and not some lame gossip column) – like I said, people are very ready to jump all over him, without hearing his side. What if it was you – and some story – true or untrue – was going around about what a bad person you are, would you want everyone believing it, just because they said it? And as I said, I have known the man for many years, and would be very comfortable having him handle any of my, or my families legal affairs – in fact, he does! There has never been a time when I had a concern over the way he handles my legal matters – so I have a hard time believing that there was any underhanded things going on in this case – as I said, all the facts are not there. It is obvious from a lot of the people commenting here, that whoever is opposing him in the campaign is behind this drivel.


cheseburger

Whatever your I.Q. is, it’s low, that if you let this low down Lawyer handle parking your Pinto your just another of his payed trolls on our money, prove otherwise and maybe we will listen when was the last time he re-appropriated funds from his account to a probate’s account? NEVER!


PaulJones

I don’t think there has ever been an investigative story here where the villains friends and family didn’t react with offense and indignation while they chastised the blogger reactions and the reporter.

They did it with Karen Guth and Yaguda, Kelly Gearhart, McDow and Limon, Lisa Solomon and Chitty, Erik Parkinson, Jay Miller, Cuesta Title extraordinaire Melony Schnieder, Linda Kennedy, Guzzens (the porn king), Whited (the drunken CHP Captain), Wilcox, Edge & Perry, Bordonaro, Hedges, and that’s just off the top of my head. We always hear that the villains are victims, that it’s all about politics and private agendas, that the reporter is wrong or worse, a liar, and that innocent, wonderful, trust worthy, endearing people who would never never do anything like what we are all talking about have been unjustly attacked and slandered . To put it bluntly, your rant is identical to what I’ve heard every time, yet to date, CCN has had it right every time. I suggest that attorney Zimmerman explains his actions, because right now, he sounds like a spin artist that is second only to our county tax assessor.


sailorgirl

What I do find odd is that once again CCN with its small staff is able to break a story like this and the Trib & KSBY lack the staff to really look at some of the things that go on in SLO County.


This story came out as a result of the Bordonaro piece here a couple of weeks ago, so allowing for time to investigate and check her facts to be sure everything is right this seems right to me, so NO, I do NOT find it odd, not at all.


CCN has been right far too many times to question anything.


ApathyWillKillYou

Whoa!!!!!!!

Stop the presses!

A 71 year old man is found deceased in his own home and the Sheriff’s Department summons the presence of the estate lawyer at the ‘non crime scene’ on the very day while they are still in the house investigating. It must have been VERY QUICKLY determined that this poor man died of natural causes as one would have not in their wildest imagination suspect the first person to be called would be the TRUSTEE for the estate!


Mr. Zimmerman stated ” that he was not aware that he was the trustee of Treadwell’s estate until after the man died. He claims his father-in-law and deceased law partner had written the trust”


How did the Sheriff’s Department determine he was the lawyer of record so quickly when Zimmerman didn’t even know him self!


But according to this statement “Deputies called Zimmerman to the home. According to deputies, Zimmerman explained that the deceased had no living immediate family members. Sheriff’s deputies also allowed Zimmerman to leave the residence with almost $154,000 in cash that HE discovered in a closet.


STOP AGAIN!!!


HE implies Zimmerman found the cash himself!… not the poilce??? So Zimmerman is conducting his own personal search of the residence in the presence of the police during a DEATH investigation! And Zimmerman leaving the residence with the cash calls for a new, yet to be determined cuss word that more accurately describes the magnitude of the situation!


When I die please don’t contact any of my immediate family, or friends, clergy, maybe an ambulance just in case I’m not really dead… but be sure to call my ATTORNEY right away!


Apathy is NOT the answer!


Cindy

Mr Treadwell had a “do not resuscitate” request drawn up that named Mr Zimmerman as his attorney of record. When the sheriff”s arrived they saw the order and contacted Zimmerman. Don’t know if there was a copy of Treadwell’s other legal documents in clear view but sounds like Zimmerman took control right away so he must have located a will or trust or both. I can’t imagine the police would have allowed him to search or remove anything without the legal doc’s naming him as trustee. Zimmerman more that likely showed up with the trust and will in tow, that would make sense.


What’s most bothersome to me is the phone call in the middle of night, the determination that Mr Treadwell passed away of natural causes based on his doctors opinion and the quick cremation. The fact Zimmerman seemed to think it was a suicide is odd, everything here is odd. I would love to hear what Zimmerman has to say about all this. Perhaps he could easily clear up many of these fragments.


airdez

It is encouraging to see that there are so many experts with heightened insights to dissect this matter. And to think that so many opinions were obtained from a single column, written by a person on a situation which occurred over 2 years ago, attacking a man running for office. I see this story as a classic example of utilizing the stigmatizes established by pop-culture and the stereotypes we associate people.


If I am wrong please correct me, but I did not hear of a bar complaint being filed or a police investigation occurring on the matter remotely close to the time-frame of the allegations asserted in the article . Like you all, I believe I also saw a Law and Order episode which indicated that evidence and the likelihood of revealing the truth occurs at a time closer, and not further, from so called suspicious accusations. This is parallel to the game of whispering a sentence into a neighbors ear, having it go around in a circle and the phrase that came back to the originator is so appallingly different . One would think that based on the alleged scandal and its effect, people would have stood up for what they believed to be right and just (especially with that amount of money at stake).


The truth of the matter is that this is a strange story involving a strange person. No one who chimed in (including myself) read the trust document, so we don’t know what it entailed or who was allowed to have access. We do not know Mr. Zimmerman’s responsibilities either. The man obviously disinherited his daughter and did not make his long term girlfriend the trustee, so logic would tell you something does not fit with these woman.


The bottom line people is to simply take a look at the motives of the author, the timing and the angle and information revealed, before reaching a conclusion and assuming a man’s guilt or innocence. I have not heard of another person who stepped up in the past two years indicating that they were irresponsibly represented by this individual. Just because and article gives an opinion does not necessarily mean it is accurate.


TacomaRose

Airdez: Give me a break!!! Trying to cover his tracks are you? Or maybe his tracks?


moderator

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theothermikezimmermantheonefrompismo

Something tells me that Airdez is directly involved with the Zimmerman campaign.


magnumpi

Mmmm so far not one positive note here for Mr Z??? I guess a 30 years track record doesn’t count for all that much anymore. Before everyone Lynches this guy let’s see some facts. The timing of this information is really great though…. if your running against him


Irene

Such a sad state of affairs. I certainly hope that the newspapers and radio pick up this story. This guy, at best is down right heartless in the way he treated Mr. Treadwell’s daughter and girlfriend. Perhaps Mr. Zimmerman can redeem himself by providing a full accounting of the estate, however this would not answer why he lied again and again. What was he covering up? The ethical thing to do would have been to be honest with the the daughter and girlfriend, inform them that he was the trustee of the estate and how he was going to dispose of the assets. The cruelest thing of all was to cremate Mr. Treadwell against the wishes of his will, denying “his family” the opportunity to be there at his burial.


I wonder if Mr. Zimmerman will treat the voters of the 4th district with the same forthrightness and respect that he gave the Treadwell family?