A primary purpose of estate planning is to determine what a child will inherit (if anything) upon a parent’s death. But what about a gift given during the parent’s life? Is it an advance on the child’s inheritance, like putting it on the child’s tab until the trust is cashed out? Or is the gift in addition to anything the child will get upon the parent’s death? The answer in California depends on the parent’s intent when the gift was made – more specifically, whether the parent wanted it to be an advance. The problem is determining the parent’s intent after death.
California Probate Code section 21135 describes the circumstances under which a lifetime gift will be considered an advancement against a beneficiary’s inheritance. In Sachs v. Sachs (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 59, the Court of Appeal examined Section 21135 and concluded that a parent’s written records of lifetime gifts established them as an advancement against a child’s inheritance. This opinion provides guidance to parents who make gifts and to siblings in conflict over them.