California trust and estate disputes often involve allegations that a surviving spouse took advantage of a deceased spouse so as to get more of the latter’s assets. Often the “spousal financial abuse” charges are leveled by the deceased spouse’s biological children against their step-parent, as discussed in a prior post. Sometimes care custodians who
(Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal granted rehearing on December 2, 2019 and later depublished the portion of its opinion discussed below such that it is no longer citable authority in California courts.)
It is widely understood in California that inherited assets, unlike assets earned from labor, are the separate property of the receiving spouse. But what if the assets do not come directly from a parent and instead pass from one sibling to another?
Inheritance for separate property purposes generally means direct inheritance, says the California Court of Appeal. That’s the lesson of In re Marriage of Deluca (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 598.
(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.