Category: Probate

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Immortal Right — Income Beneficiary’s Entitlement to Accounting Continues After Death

Many California trusts confer a lifetime right to income on a person (often the surviving spouse) with the remainder passing to designated survivors upon the income beneficiary’s death.  When the income beneficiary dies, is it too late for the executor of the beneficiary’s estate to request an accounting for the purpose of evaluating whether the … Continue Reading

Lights, Cabin, Action! A Showdown Over Jurisdiction and Venue

One of the first steps before filing a lawsuit is to decide which court has jurisdiction over it and where it is properly venued.  It’s a significant choice – not only for strategic reasons, but also because a poor selection may prove fatal to the lawsuit.  Such a hefty decision is not always an easy … Continue Reading

Take a Fire Prevention Approach to Your Estate Plan

As we enter the New Year, it’s a good time to revisit your estate plan.  The big question is whether your will, trust, power of attorney, and advance health care directive accomplish your personal objectives.  Guidance from an estate planner will help you review your plan in light of tax and other changes in the … Continue Reading

Who Gets the Tahoe House and Other California Real Estate Inheritance Disputes

Many California trust and estate disputes involve the allocation of real estate amongst several beneficiaries.  Mom and Dad, may they rest in peace, owned an upscale home in the Fab 40s neighborhood of East Sacramento, a sweet Tahoe vacation home, and a few rental duplexes, but did not specify how these assets were to be … Continue Reading

How Does Amended California Emergency Rule 9 Affect Probate Proceedings?

(Editor’s Note: The example in the post below has been revised.) California causes of action are subject to various statutes of limitation.  Unless a plaintiff or petitioner files a complaint or other document asserting a cause of action within the applicable limitations period, the filing will be deemed time barred and subject to dismissal.  Under … Continue Reading

Mind Your Notice in California – Even Remote Contingent Beneficiaries May Need to Be Served

It’s unremarkable that California courts require that notice be given to affected beneficiaries in trust and probate proceedings.  After all, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no person will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.  While contingent beneficiaries may not have received an inheritance yet, they may someday and so should know … Continue Reading

Openness and Transparency Help Avoid Trust Disputes – An Interview with Tracy Potts

Tracy M. Potts has nearly three decades of experience in California with estate planning, administration and litigation.  A Texas native, she earned her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law.  Her leadership experience includes chairing the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California, Trusts and Estates Section, as well as the Sacramento … Continue Reading

Beware of Dormant Creditor Claims in California Probate Cases

California’s probate process aims to expeditiously identify and resolve the claims of creditors against decedents.  Creditors who are unsophisticated, or who simply do not learn of the decedent’s passing, may find themselves with an uncollectable claim against an otherwise solvent estate.  You snooze, you lose. On the other hand, once a creditor makes a claim … Continue Reading

California Probate Administration Is No Time for Napping

In the absence of a trust that allows assets to pass without opening probate, the California probate process lasts for at least six months and can run much longer depending on the size of the estate and the nature of assets. The role of the personal representative (i.e., the “executor” if nominated in the will) … Continue Reading

Purple Rain Shower in California — Prince’s Estate Chases Northern California Law Firm

When musician Prince Rogers Nelson died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, he had no estate plan in place, not even a will.  We blogged that “You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Need an Estate Plan.” As the third anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, his probate estate continues to be administered … Continue Reading

California Courts May Scrutinize Conservator Fees

Private professional fiduciaries in California are entitled to charge a reasonable fee for their services, but their fees for acting as conservators are subject to close court scrutiny. A recent California Court of Appeal case, In re Conservatorship of Presha (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 487, shows how closely probate judges and their staffs may examine the … Continue Reading

Anti-SLAPP Case Features Arm Wrestling Siblings and a Prep School

California’s anti-SLAPP statute has generated another published case for trust and estate lawyers to ponder.  Last week, in Urick v. Urick (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 1182, the California Court of Appeal confirmed that anti-SLAPP motions can be used to attack petitions to enforce no contest clauses. The opinion reminds California trust and estate counsel to be … Continue Reading

When Is a Will Valid in California?

Although much wealth passes today through trusts and beneficiary designations, we occasionally handle California probate disputes that turn on the validity of wills, sometimes involving high value estates. The standard practice in California estate planning is for wills to be typewritten and prepared by attorneys, but those steps are not necessary.  A holographic, i.e., handwritten, … Continue Reading

California Professional Fiduciaries Help Elders and Resolve Conflicts

California trust and estate disputes may be avoided or resolved with the appointment of a private professional fiduciary to act in an oversight role with respect to an elder’s care and/or finances.  In a recent post, we suggested the use of professional fiduciaries or bank trust departments to resolve conflicts among family member co-trustees. Here … Continue Reading

Just the FAQs: California Trust and Estate Litigation’s Greatest Hits, Part 1

In our Sacramento trust and estate litigation practice there are several questions that come up over and over again.  In many instances, these questions are the building blocks of our practice that lead to more complicated questions that sometimes require the filing of a lawsuit to answer.  As a starting place, below are some of … Continue Reading

A Friend Request From The Beyond: California’s New Post-Death Digital Assets Law

Next time you schedule an appointment with Downey Brand’s Sacramento office to revise your estate plan you will have a new question to consider: who will manage your Facebook account when you’re gone? Assembly Bill No. 691, which became effective on January 1, 2017, attempts to aid in that process.  It is commonly called the … Continue Reading

Sacramento Court Limits Reach of Anti-SLAPP Law in Trust Disputes

A few months ago, I wrote about the anti-SLAPP statute as a powerful defensive tool in California trust and estate litigation. Adding new light to the subject is a Sacramento-based appellate court’s decision in Greco v. Greco (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 810. The case narrows the ability of fiduciaries to bring motions to dismiss under the … Continue Reading

Watch Out for SLAPPs in California Trust and Estate Litigation

In heated California trust and estate litigation, one party’s petition to the probate court often leads the other side to file a retaliatory petition. If Sally petitions in Sacramento County Superior Court to contest Mom’s trust amendment on the ground that Mom had Alzheimer’s disease and lacked sufficient mental capacity to reduce Sally’s share, brother … Continue Reading

“You Don’t Have to Be Rich” to Need a Plan

Prince died in April 2016 without a will or trust, according to documents recently filed by his sister in the Carver County District Court in Minnesota. Perhaps a will or trust will surface eventually, as occurred with Michael Jackson’s estate. However, the revelation in “The Morning Papers” that Prince died intestate (legalese for no will … Continue Reading

Double Damages, Even In Death

In addition to bark, the Probate Code can have bite too. Some Probate Code sections have provisions that are punitive in nature and are designed to keep fiduciaries and others dealing with trust property in line. These statutes have sharp teeth. Take, for example, California Probate Code section 859, which concerns property taken from a … Continue Reading
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