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Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC

Estate Planning Ensures Beneficiaries Know What to Expect

“That’s Not What He Really Wanted” – a Beneficiary’s Famous First Words

Estate administration can be so traumatic. Here is a typical scenario: Parent sets up a trust, then lets it sit in a drawer for twenty years, and completely forgets “who gets what” per the terms of that trust.

Meanwhile, on every Holiday gathering or special occasion, Parent fondly speaks of how the vacation home would go to his Niece after his death, or that the gun collection would go to his grandson, or that his favorite son-in-law will so much enjoy inheriting the wine collection in the wine cellar. After all, this makes for great “center of attention” conversations, and of course, instills certain expectations in those involved.

When Parent passes and the Trustee sends out a copy of the Trust to all the named beneficiaries and heirs at law (as is required in CA), what a surprise – the distributive provisions in the trust are nothing like what Parent always said they would be! Was he just teasing? After all, he promised this over and over again!

As a result, often the trust gets embroiled in prolonged litigation because the aggrieved relatives feel they need to contest its terms. And, those who are not “aggrieved” cannot get their share out of the trust either, because the trust assets are tied up in litigation. Surely THAT is not what the parent really wanted – his hard-earned assets going to lawyers and the courts.

This is the result of not documenting your testamentary intent, especially as to real property.

It is a Parent’s responsibility to periodically review the terms of the trust and to ensure they remain current and relevant, as the family dynamic changes over the years. If this periodic review does not take place, the family ends up being set up for bitter and prolonged litigation that drains the assets of the trust.

The lesson here is – if you really mean it, put it in writing.

Contact The Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, Trusts & Estates in Marina del Rey, on 475 Washington Boulevard. Contact Us to learn more.