(Editor’s Note: The post below was published on November 21, 2016. California law as to undue influence presumptions between spouses changed on January 1, 2020, due to Assembly Bill 327, discussed in a subsequent post.)
When Wife works with her Sacramento estate planning lawyer to favor her Husband over her children from a prior marriage in her trust, does California law presume that Husband exerted undue influence over the Wife to gain a benefit? Until 2014, most California trust and estate lawyers would answer that question in the negative. Favoring a current spouse over other potential beneficiaries is a common and natural choice in estate planning.
Yet a California Court of Appeal based in San Jose took the opposite position in Lintz v. Lintz (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1346. The Lintz case casts a shadow over millions of “honey I love you” wills and trusts in the Golden State. Until the California Legislature or Supreme Court resolves this question, step-children will invoke Lintz in an effort to gain the upper hand over step-parents. This post will discuss the inconsistency that Lintz recently has created in California law.