We’ve probably all heard, at one time or another, the phrase “If wishes were fishes, we’d all swim in riches.” The phrase, distilled to its Scottish essence, means wishing for something doesn’t make it so – you have to work for it.
So, how does this apply to wills and trusts?
We start with an initial inquiry – Did the will or trust maker express whether the estate or trust assets were to be distributed outright and free of trust? Or, whether the will or trust maker intended to impose enforceable duties as to the distribution of the properties in question.
We search the document to see whether the maker’s words are merely those of desire rather than those of command. In the words of the law, is the maker using precatory wo[...]
While there are a variety of grounds and reasons for contesting a will in California probate courts, there is an important precondition to a court challenge: standing to sue. In essence, you must have a property right affected by the will – in the words of the law – you must be an “interested person.”
California Probate Code Section 48 defines an “interested person” as an “heir, devisee, child, spouse, creditor, beneficiary, and any other person having a property right in or claim against a trust estate or the estate of a decedent which may be affected by the proceeding.” In the words of well-known trust and estate litigation Super Lawyer, Denise Chambliss, “it is black letter law that beneficiaries of an earlier will, [...]
The name John Seward Johnson probably means very little to you, but you’ve certainly know the company that Johnson’s father, Robert Wood Johnson, co-founded. That’s right – Johnson & Johnson, the maker of baby products we’ve all used for generations.
By the time Johnson died of cancer in 1983 at the age of 87, he left an estate of more than $400 million. Unfortunately for his heirs, he also left behind a complicated estate battle that took years and millions of dollars to sort out, mostly because his six children from two marriages alleged that Johnson was not mentally competent when he left his fortune to his third wife, Barbara Piasecka, a chambermaid, 42 years his junior, whom he married in 1971 with none of his children[...]
The roots of 21st Century inheritance laws run deep into the cradle of Western Civilization. The ancient Greek Athenian leader Solon made great efforts to devise a law code that ultimately became one of the foundations of democracy. This code helped establish rules for a civilized society. Part of the code addressed inheritance rights. Prior to the code an Athenian could not make a will. At death the wealth and assets of the decedent simply belonged to his family.
Solon changed this. An Athenian, if he had no children, could by will distribute at death his wealth and assets to whomever he pleased. This change was said to show that the decedent could decide “that he esteemed friendship a stronger tie than kindred, affection than necessity[...]
Now this happens all the time. Uncle Buster tells you that you’re going to inherit his house. Now you love Uncle Buster, and you want him to live to a ripe old age. But you know in your heart that when Uncle Buster dies you are going to inherit his house. Uncle Buster let a few other relatives and neighbors know that he was eventually going to give you the house.
Uncle Buster dies. Aunt Thelma, Buster’s long lost sister shows up at the funeral and announces that she’s in charge of Buster’s estate. You’re initially too shy to ask her about Buster’s will, but you’re concerned. Within days Thelma is cleaning out the house and putting all of its contents up for a Saturday garage sale. You stop by the sale and get up your nerve to[...]