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2 Estate Planning Lessons from Recent Cases

Many people think that estate planning is a once and done process. In actuality, it is critical to constantly revise the terms of your estate plan. Not only can changes in your own life impact the terms of your trust,  but estate planning law also changes frequently. 


Each year, numerous cases influence nuances in estate planning law. This article takes a brief look at three recent cases and interprets what these cases mean for the future of your estate plan.


# 1 – Blech v. Blech


The case of Blech v. Blech concerned a dispute among four adult children of a deceased individual. Three of the children obtain a judgment against the fourth child and filed a petition to have a trustee pay 25% of the fourth child’s future distributions directly to the siblings who were owed money by the fourth sibling. A lower court ruled for the siblings, and the fourth child appealed on the basis that courts should not have considered a creditors’ petition that was filed before the child’s disbursement was due and payable. 


The California court subsequently found that creditors can file petitions before the time that a trust distribution is due. 


This case emphasizes two important points. One, the reach of probate courts as long so if something is ambiguous in an estate planning, there is always a chance that things might proceed in an undesirable manner. And two, while some people think that trusts always protect any located in them, this is not always the case. 


# 2 – Key v. Tyler


In Key v. Tyler, Key initiated a petition in this case to invalidate an amendment to her parent’s trust. Key argued that Tyler, Key’s sister, had obtained this change as a result of undue influence. Tyler responded by defending the validity of the trust. A court later determined that the amendment did not reflect the wishes of the deceased creator and held that the amendment was invalid. 


An appellate court, however, later determined that Tyle had violated a no contest clause in the trust. The lesson to be gained from this case involves provision involves challenges over the terms of a trust. While many trusts contain provisions allowing trustees to defend lawsuits using trust funds, this can greatly deplete assets within a trust. 


The best way to avoid challenges about the terms of the trust is to draft non-ambiguous no-contest provisions that state the degree to which the trust should be defended as well as when a potential beneficiary should be disinherited for attempting to fight over the terms of a trust.


Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer Today


One of the many challenges that people face in creating a successful estate plan is that these laws change on a routine basis. To make sure that your estate plan remains capable of achieving your wishes, you should not hesitate to retain the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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