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Probate Litigation

What is Undue Influence?

Old man signing a document

When someone passes away, we have a sense of whom we expect to inherit the bulk of their property and other assets. When those expectations do not come to pass, the law sometimes intervenes and overturns the expressed desire of the person who passed away, as reflected in their will, codicil, trust, and related documents. The idea that specific provisions of a will or trust should not be carried out […]

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How to Revoke a Trust in California – Legally Straightforward Process, Emotionally Complicated

Lawyer handing out trust document to client

Trust Revocation In California and Naming of New Trust Beneficiaries Most trusts are revocable, and it is not uncommon for those who establish a trust (known as settlors) to revoke that trust and replace it with another, naming different beneficiaries. That is what happened in a trust revocation case in CA that became the subject of an appellate court opinion published in July 2020. Cundall v Mitchell-Clyde: Trust Revocation The […]

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How To Retrieve Assets If You’ve Been Excluded From a Will or Trust

Nurse assisting disable senior patient while writing on a paper

When someone has changed a will or trust just a few years before they pass away, this can lead to an accusation that someone has used a position of confidence or authority in order to take unfair advantage. Undue influence is the legal term used to describe this situation. Undue influence often arises with a husband and wife who have been married for several decades, built a family, own a […]

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Can an Incompetent Person Change Their Will? When Does Someone Lack the Capacity to Create or Change Their Will or Trust?

Last will & testament document and a ballpen

We regularly litigate cases involving allegations that family members or other caregivers convinced an elder with dementia to change their will or trust in order to cut someone out or get a bigger share for themselves. A will or trust that has been changed can, however, often be reversed and assets can be recovered if you can show that the person should not have been allowed to make those changes. […]

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How Probate Litigation Can Defend Your Rights as a Beneficiary

Probate court document & a gavel

One of the most responsible and loving gifts a parent or spouse can provide is an estate plan that clearly articulates the distribution of assets after their death. A solid estate plan can eliminate the probate process, protect wealth, minimize or eliminate taxes, and deliver financial security for generations to come. The wishes of the deceased are assessed, addressed through estate planning, often utilizing trusts. Without a plan, all assets and debts must […]

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Proving Undue Influence in Probate Court

Let’s talk about elder financial abuse and undue influence, and let’s start with a hypothetical scenario. Bill is an only child. Upon his father’s death, he learns that his dad’s last will leaves a third of his estate to a woman called Leeanne. Bill is stunned. His father had long been telling him that he is his sole heir. And as for Leeanne — yes, she entertained his dad by […]

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California Anti-SLAPP Motions in Probate Litigation

People protesting in the street

The California legislature in 1992 enacted an Anti-SLAPP statute in order to protect individuals from lawsuits that challenge their constitutionality protected rights for free speech and to petition the government. These suits are commonly referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP suits, and the California law’s Anti-SLAPP statute provides tools to end such suits quickly and inexpensively. The statute, codified in California Code of Civil Procedure Section […]

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No-contest Clauses, Wills and Lawsuits: Why in Estate Planning Small Details Really Matter

When somebody dies with an estate plan and a last will in place, the deceased person’s assets usually pass to the heirs smoothly and swiftly. But every once in a while things go awry, and the courts get involved. So it happened with a case that the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles filed in November, Estate of Dayan. The case hinged on a no-contest clause in the […]

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When Siblings Act as Co-Trustees: Potential Pitfalls in Estate Planning

We’ve all seen families fall apart. Siblings stop talking with each other. A son or a daughter cuts a parent out of his or her life. Obviously, the reasons for such breakups vary. But in my experience the number one divider is money. The best way I know to prevent family feuds over assets is to create an estate plan that works, and to avoid potential pitfalls in the process. Here’s […]

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Reading the Fine Print: Probate, Trusts and the Duties of a Trustee

If you own any form of assets, you’ve probably heard that you should avoid probate by putting your property in a trust. In cases where the value of an estate exceeds $150,000 — for smaller estates probate isn’t mandated — that is indeed sound advice, especially in California, where probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. But when it comes to trusts, I have often noticed that people expect […]

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When a Trustee Acts in Bad Faith: Lessons from Gray v Jewish Federation

As an estate planning attorney who represents trustees whose actions have been challenged as well as parties who allege wrongdoing by a trustee, I stay current with legal developments in the field. A recent case before the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District is a good lesson. It demonstrates what is ultimately expected of a trustee and what’s at stake in lawsuits involving trusts. So here’s what happened, or […]

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